Are Gen Z and Millennials living on avocado toast and fake meat burgers? Don’t believe the headlines—these are their actual favorite things to eat…
When we looked at the things that young consumers don’t regret spending money on, food ranked at the top of the list for all age groups. A lot of assumptions, and stereotypes, surround Gen Z and Millennials’ food preferences. Headlines about Gen Z refusing to eat meat are common—and of course, Millennials live on avocado toast. Some declare that both generations will only eat organic, all-natural foods. Of course, studying young consumers day in and day out, we know that their diet realities are much more nuanced. They may be trying to eat healthy on a more regular basis, but they still make room for indulgences (and fast food, gasp!).
In our recent survey on their cooking and diet habits, we asked young consumers about their diets, and found that 66% call their diet “unrestricted,” compared to the 44% who chose a specific limiting plan (gluten free, dairy free, vegan, etc.). Many explained that they watch what they eat, but don’t restrict or ban anything. In fact, most their favorite foods are far from health conscious. In that same survey, we asked 13-36-year-olds, “What is your absolute favorite thing to eat?” Their answers were, as expected, varied, but we organized them into a top 20 ranking of common dishes. Here are their favorites:
*This was an open-end response question to allow us to capture the full range of foods that young consumers say are their favorites—without our preconceived ideas shaping their responses. As with any qualitative question, the responses include those that are top of mind and those that are most popular. The lists are ordered according to number of responses received, and alphabetically when ties occurred.
Their Favorite Things To Eat
Chocolate / Dessert
Mexican food / dish
Beef / Steak
Other Asian food / dish
Breakfast food / dish
Mac & cheese
Italian food / dish
Chinese food / dish
Fast food place / dish
When we asked this same question in 2016, pizza also topped the list. It is pizza, after all, and let’s remember that we’re talking about their absolute favorite things to eat. So it’s no surprise this list is full of indulgences like take out mainstays, desserts, and ice cream. Chicken dishes ranked in the number two spot, and while those mentioned did include a few healthful varieties, by far the most popular named were wings and fried.
But we will note that when we look beyond this top 20, signs of young consumers’ health-consciousness abound. Vegetables ranked at number 23, and salad wasn’t far behind at number 25. And yes, more than one person mentioned vegan items as their favorite things to eat, including one 14-year-old female who named a fake meat burger, “Because it tastes really good and its healthier than real meat.”
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