Millennials – Are they really that different from other generations?

by Wendy Neuman, MS, Director of Market Research,  National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff

Summary
There are two important goals in the Beef Industry Long Range Plan which are focused on demand generation for beef and image management.  Over the past several years, the beef checkoff has migrated to a target audience focus that combines aspects of one’s generation, age, household lifecycle status, and attitudinal interest in both food and nutrition.

Given consumers’ ever changing relationship with beef, it is time to take a fresh look at the target audience to ensure we seize every opportunity to positively impact beef demand.
It is time to take a fresh look at the target audience and their relationship with beef. This study does exactly that -- it looks at the new target of the millennial generation against the non-millennials.  The previous target market of food and health involved consumers is still on the radar but more in light of how millennials fall into the food and health category.

Target Audience Research Approach
This study was conducted in late 2013 using both qualitative and quantitative methods to better understand the target audience overall.  Internal interviews with NCBA staff members were conducted along with four focus groups among mature millennials (ages 25-34 years) to learn more about what really defines these consumers. Additionally, 1,250 online surveys were conducted to gain a perspective on the millennial generation versus non-millennials. 

The purpose of the study was to identify the most promising target segments for beef in terms of their attitudes, values, lifestyles and motivations relative to their perceptions of beef.

Background
One of the objectives of this study was to understand the differences and similarities between the generations of beef eaters.  This study concludes that there are differences between them, however, perhaps not as many differences as previously thought.  One important aspect of this target shift is the fact that millennial will be the key beef-consuming segment for decades to come and we cannot afford to have their interest in beef wane.

Millennials eat beef a couple times a week which is not different than non-millennials, and their reasons for choosing beef are also the same; most, regardless of generation, want a great tasting meal, value for the money and a food they feel confident preparing.  This does not change much when preparing meals for children in the household; consumers still look for a meal the whole family will enjoy, that is nutritious and reasonably priced.

Both groups of consumers recognize beef nutrients such as protein and iron, however, B vitamins and zinc are nutrients less associated with beef. 

While there are many similarities across generations, there are also a number of clear differences.  For example, millennials are more likely to be influencers and want to share their beef eating experiences with others.  This group of consumers is eager to learn how to cook better and is very engaged with food.  Importantly, when millennial are disappointed with a meal outcome they are much less likely to try this meal again, which obviously affects their beef eating experience and frequency of trying new beef recipes.

Although both millennials and non-millennials say that their parents were influential in teaching them to cook, millennials also state they tend to use websites and cooking shows to learn to cook.  We know from this and other research that this generation is much more tech-savvy and are more inclined to use technology to seek and find information.

Focusing on educating all consumers on the nutritional benefits of beef and not losing sight that taste is still the primary driver for beef consumption will help the beef industry reach the target market of both millennials and non-millennials.

Detailed Findings and Conclusion

Millennials are not moving away from beef (nor are non-millennials)

  • Millennials eat beef about twice a week which is the same as non-millennials.
  • Both millennials and non-millennials tend to eat dinner at a restaurant only 1-2 times a week. Millennials are slightly more likely to eat out two or more times a week.Millennials and non-millennials have the same perceptions toward beef in that 38 percent of millennials and 40 percent of non-millennials say that the positives of beef strongly outweigh the negatives.  The negatives of beef somewhat outweigh the positives for 8 percent of both groups.

Reasons for serving beef are the same for millennials and non-millennials

  • Taste, value for money, confidence in preparing and a food I feel good about are the top reasons for serving beef, regardless of generation (see chart).
  • When planning for children meals, again the top three most important factors for both millennials and non-millennials are the same -- taste, nutrition and cost.

 In addition, beef is enjoyed by everyone in the household for both millennials and non-millennials

Both millennials and non-millennials want fat trimmed from the outer edges of steaks but still want some marbling for flavor

Millennials and non-millennials believe beef is a good source of protein and iron

  • B vitamins and zinc are two nutrients that both groups are less often to believe are associated with beef. 
  • Millennials are less likely than non-millennials to say that they want to include a protein at meals.
    While there are many similarities as detailed above, there are also a number of differences to point out.

Millennials (22 percent) are more likely than non-millennials (14 percent) to be food influencers

  • Thirty-three percent vs. 25 percent of millennials and non-millennials respectively consider themselves food engaged or a “foodie.”
  • Millennials are also more likely than non-millennials to never make the same meal again if they are disappointed in the outcome (37 percent vs. 30 percent respectively).
  • Millennials are much more likely to plan their social life around food than non-millennials.
  • More millennials show eagerness in learning to be a better cook.

The millennial generation is also more likely to say that price and value are important when purchasing beef than non-millennials

  • Mass merchandisers such as Target or Walmart are the primary places to purchase beef for millennials versus conventional grocery stores for non-millennials.
  • Non-millennials are more likely to say that beef can be described as a great source of protein and has many lean cuts available than millennials.
  • Non-millennials are also more likely to be looking for a specific cut of beef when purchasing compared to millennials.  Millennials cook much more with ground beef than cuts of beef.

Sources of information about beef are different between millennials and non-millennials

  • While both groups say that a parent is the most influential person in how they learned to cook, fewer millennials say this.
  • Far more millennials use cooking shows and online articles than non-millennials as a source of learning how to cook.
  • Millennials are much more likely than non-millennials to want to share their food pictures online and get recipe ideas digitally including websites, Pinterest, Facebook and blogs. 

Additional Resources
2013 Target Audience Research

Tags: Beef Issues Quarterly, Research Findings, Spring 2014

April 5, 2014