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What’s on “Mi” Plate? Impact of Millennials on Food-Service Industry

Published on October 11, 2018 by Shivani Dogra

Millennials – the single-largest demographic population globally – are influencing the strategic decisions of global giants and local players equally. This generation, born between 1981 and the late 1990s, makes up c. 27% of the global population. These young independent adults with high disposable income are proving to be the world’s most important generational cohort for assessing consumer preferences, making recruitment decisions, and estimating growth opportunities. It is no different for the food-service industry. Therefore, it is crucial to understand their behavioral pattern and eating preferences.


While selecting food options, convenience plays a significant role for millennials. For example, they may view even making cereal cumbersome, as it would require cleaning a dirty bowl, according to a 2015 Mintel report. Kellogg’s sales fell 14% from 2013 through 2017, as younger consumers moved to more convenient options (including flavored yogurt and bagels) and prepared breakfast sandwiches


Online ordering has exploded in recent years, as apps have made it possible for people to order food directly from restaurants that earlier did not provide delivery services, aided by the availability of ratings for each restaurant. This has opened up avenues for food-service players and provided consumers a plethora of options and information on choices available


As millennials have become more quality conscious and their awareness on the use of chemicals and pesticides for food cultivation has increased, demand for organic fruits and vegetables has soared


The wellness-conscious millennials are seeking “superfood” alternatives (e.g., kale, chia seeds, and cayenne pepper) as they age. During 2011-2015, products launched as “superfood,” “superfruit,” or “supergrain” grew 202% worldwide


Given their increased awareness of health-related issues and environment conservation, this generation prefers food and beverages with least artificial ingredients & preservatives and packaging with environment-friendly and recyclable materials

How does this impact companies operating in the food-service sector?

Food-service companies need to be aware of changing customer preferences and adapt accordingly or even act proactively. Some key areas where they need to be more proactive are mentioned below.


Companies with enough capital/cash should tie up with or purchase smaller players with a more advanced product portfolio. These smaller players, providing superfoods, organic food, and recyclable packaging, may be popular among younger consumers. So instead of investing in R&D to develop technologies/processes, it may be profitable for the suitors to acquire companies that have already built expertise in this area and then invest in building economies of scale.


In this fast-changing environment, companies need to continually monitor and stay abreast of changing consumer preferences – from tastes to methods of ordering (online, apps, etc.). A change in consumer behavior, such as millennials’ skipping breakfast, could offer food-service companies an opportunity to provide catering services for breakfast at work


As technologies continue to become more pervasive across industries and functions, the distinction between the current technology and nontechnology firms will increasingly blur. Technology will act as a key differentiator, and companies adopting technology will be pioneer in their fields. This stands true in the case of food-service providers as well – in redefining processes, improving efficiency in logistics and supply chain, monitoring and analyzing customer behavior, and reaching out to end customers (using online platforms, apps, etc.)

Companies in the food-service domain need to be agile and nimble to adapt to the changing preferences and ever-growing demand of millennial consumers for new tastes and experiences.


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About the Author

Associate Director, Corporate and Consulting

Shivani leads various Corporate and Consulting engagements at Acuity Knowledge Partners and has been with the firm for over 10 years. She is responsible for supporting business development, delivery oversight, team management and quality assurance across engagements. Shivani has extensive experience in a range of strategy research projects including market assessment, market entry & feasibility studies, competitor analysis, partner identification and growth strategy across e-commerce, automotive, IT, finance, food & beverage and construction sectors. She holds a Master’s in Business Admiration from Symbiosis University and a Bachelor of Architecture from South Gujarat University.

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