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Breakfast Brief: Millennials

Millennials, adults born between 1977 and 1992, make up nearly 30% of the population aged 13 to 70. This generation is strong in number, opinion and influence, exercising an estimated spending power of $200 billion, behind only baby boomers. The millennial generation is also more ethnically diverse than Gen X and baby boomers and spans recent college graduates, young parents and mid-career professionals; these different life stages impact need states when dining out. Operators who understand the importance of this generation and cater to this group’s foodservice preferences can capture much of their dining dollars at breakfast.

Breakfast Behaviors

Millennials frequent foodservice locations for breakfast more than any other generation, by a wide margin. In fact, more than three-quarters of millennials (76%) buy breakfast food or drinks at a restaurant or other foodservice location once a week or more, compared to 61% of the overall population.

And they’re not showing any signs of slowing their away-from-home breakfast consumption. Some 44% of millennials say they’re eating more breakfast at foodservice locations now than a year ago, compared to just 28% of the overall population. With their strong buying power and increased breakfast consumption, millennials must be paid attention in this competitive daypart.

Capturing Millennials

Here are some tips for attracting millennials in the morning:

  1. Go Global

    Some 63% of millennials (compared to just 46% of the overall population) say ethnic breakfast dishes are appealing, significantly more than any other generation. And 61% of millennials say they would like to see more ethnic items offered for breakfast condiments, toppings and sauces, compared to 48% of the overall population. Look to the cuisines of the Mediterranean, Middle East, Asia and more for flavor inspiration. Dishes such as omelets with Mediterranean ingredients like feta, tomatoes and olives are good options. Breakfast tacos can be paired with Asian or North African flavors, too.

  2. Look for Breakfast Innovation

    A large number of millennials (77%) would like to try new flavors and varieties of condiments, toppings and sauces at breakfast. That’s compared to just 56% of Gen Zers and 66% of the overall population. Consider unexpected flavor combinations, such as a maple syrup infused with spicy or smoky flavors, to win over this group.

  3. Go Eco-Friendly

    When it comes to breakfast, millennials value humane and sustainable options, such as sourcing cage-free eggs and poultry. Nearly a quarter of millennials (24%) say they’re more likely to purchase—and are willing to pay more for—these ingredients. That’s compared to just 17% of the overall population. When writing menus, take care to call out these eco-friendly attributes.  

5 Breakfast Trends Appealing to Millennials

  1. Ethnic Baked Egg Dishes

    Millennials love to experiment with flavor at breakfast. Look to the bold flavors of trendy Middle Eastern shakshuka and other globally inspired offerings like Indian egg curry or Latin migas. Tip: With 32% of millennials eating more meat-free options compared to two years ago, these vegetarian-friendly breakfast offerings will likely reduce the veto vote.

  2. BYO Toast Bars

    Millennials appreciate menu transparency, and build-your-own toast bars fit the bill. Offering toast toppings like avocado or familiar, fruit-based spreads and nut butters pairs with this generation’s desire for creative riffs on familiar items. Look for breads and toppings made with sustainable ingredients, as well some gluten-free and other better-for-you options. Tip: Keep fruit-based spreads and other toppings in their original packaging to build consumer trust.

  3. Inventive Breakfast Sandwich Bases

    Three out of four millennials (75%) find nontraditional breakfast sandwich bases, such as muffins and waffles, appealing. That’s compared to 70% of the total population. Menuing handheld alternatives with pancakes or other breakfast pastries instead of bread builds is another area in which to add novel flavors as well. Tip: Look for interesting combinations of textures and flavors for LTOs to increase excitement from millennials.

  4. Trusted Brands

    Nearly two-thirds of millennials (65%) say it’s important that condiments be in their branded containers. Operators can offer jams, jellies, syrups and nut butters in branded single-serve packs to promote the use of trusted brands. Tip: Menu low-sugar and all-natural varieties of trusted brands to increase the better-for-you perception of your menu.

  5. Breakfast Mashups

    Experimental millennials like breakfast hybrids. Some 56% of them (compared to just 37% of the total population) said they find dishes like the cronut (croissant-doughnut hybrid) and breakfast pizzas to be appealing. Tip: Make these creative dishes social media-ready with an eye-pleasing presentation and a hashtag.

Family Dining Occasions

Of millennials with children, nearly a quarter (23%) say their children decide which restaurant to visit. Almost half (48%) of all millennials say it’s important that the foodservice locations they visit for breakfast also offer kids breakfast options, compared to just 30% of the overall population. Consider menuing traditional breakfast offerings like pancakes and waffles, as well as more-creative kid-friendly handhelds like breakfast tacos or slider-sized breakfast sandwiches.  Transparency on the kids menu will promote quality to millennial parents, as will offering trusted condiments in branded containers.

3 Areas of Opportunity for Millennials

  1. Don’t Be Flavor Shy

    Millennials prize unexpected flavors and flavor pairings, especially at breakfast. Audition new dishes with limited-time offers and consider building engagement through social media to track millennials’ response. Experiments can come in the form of totally new dishes, mashups of traditional favorites or even new varieties of fruit spreads or syrups.

  2. Be Transparent in Sourcing

    This generation, more than any others, finds comfort in familiar brands. They also actively seek out eco-friendly options like cage-free eggs and sustainable proteins. Be sure to call out specific brands on menus and marketing materials, as well as make mention of environmentally responsible sourcing practices.

  3. Focus on Kids Menus

    Children’s preferences play a big role in driving the foodservice-purchasing decisions of millennials. Offering a wide assortment of kid- and parent-pleasing menu options, as well as trusted, high quality condiments like syrups, jams and nut butters, will help boost traffic from these young families.

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