Brand Strategy

4 Insights on Millennials’ Cooking Habits

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Todd LaBeau


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You’re probably thinking this is another one of those blog posts about how Millennials are ruining everything. Could Millennials’ cooking habits even be problematic?

Millennials take too many selfies. They won’t move out. They won’t get a driver’s license (for those keeping score at home the youngest Millennials are 22 years old now – #GrownUps). And believe it or not, according to Daily Mail and Thrillist, they suck at some pretty basic life skills like talking to real live people, reading cursive handwriting and even cooking.

Yes, cooking. They can’t even keep themselves alive!

OK, maybe the reality of millennials’ cooking habits is not that drastic. Or is it?

Since we here at LSB like to dive deep into consumer behaviors and we love to eat, and more importantly love to talk about eating (I mean who doesn’t amiright?), we thought we would take a look and see what’s what.

We uncovered four consumer insights on Millennials’ cooking habits from our research that just might shed some light onto just what is going on inside those crazy trendsetter minds. If your brand or product is somehow related to the kitchen, keep reading.

1. Millennial Cooking Habit: Shorter recipes work better

Millenials’ sweet spot for meal prep time is 20-30 min according to The Spoon. They are primarily looking for meals described as being “simple or taking little time.” It’s not because their attention span is shorter than a goldfish though … it’s because they simply don’t have time for complicated multi-step meal shenanigans.

What does this mean for my brand?

If you’re a brand that makes recipe content, think about making that content as simple as possible. Consider ingredients that don’t require a lot of prep time or are pre-prepared. When you target Millennials try testing simple vs. more complex content and see what works for your brand.

Just because it’s simple doesn’t mean that the recipe has to be basic either. We’re not talking Hamburger Helper. We’re talking about cool and fresh recipes like these kimchi rice bowls from Food52.

Side bar: I’m not banging on Hamburger Helper. When I grew up my family ate a lot of it. We knew it wasn’t fancy or superbly nutritious. That’s not the point. Hamburger Helper is easy, fast and tasty. It’s the dinner trifecta for a busy family on a budget. That’s why it was a staple in our weekly routine. We loved it. I still do. Especially the beef noodle one. Damn good stuff. @BettyCrocker – You know what I’m talking about!

2. Millennial Cooking Habit: I like my Pinterest self better

According to a recent YPulse survey, 89% of Millennials say they want to be better cooks. Yet with all the cooking shows America watches, there is evidence from folks like Eddie Yoon that would suggest cooking at home is actually declining. In fact, recent data from Porch says Millennials actually cook at home less than any other generation. WTF is going on?

Well, the one thing that millennials suck at more than cooking is waiting. Welcome to our on-demand world. A world where anybody can just order food (delivery, take out or eat in) and move on faster than ever before. Why cook when I don’t have to?

What does this mean for my brand?

The important thing to focus on here is that Millennials want to become better at cooking. To help them, brands might want to consider zigging when others are zagging.

Instead of creating the same kinds of recipe content and mouth-watering #foodporn that everyone else creates, try to find an opportunity to connect with consumers in a way that’s different. Because behind every foodie is an eatie. They just want good food and most of the time it’s not that fancy. Better cooking might be in the eye of the beholder and all the cooking shows and perfectly lit Instagram shots just might be making cooking at home even more intimidating.

In a world where #picsoritdidnthappen is real, maybe Millennials don’t want the stress of failing. Consider creating recipes that are crazy easy to follow and almost failproof, inventing simple kitchen hacks or even making step-by-step pin-able infographics.

3. Millennial Cooking Habit: Smart phone sous chef

59% of Millennials cook with their smartphone nearby, according to research from Google. Makes sense, since Millennials do just about everything (from booking travel to, you know, going to the loo) with their phone in hand. They don’t just cook with their phone nearby because they want to take pictures of the final foodie masterpiece (they do) but also because they don’t know what cookbooks are. (Kidding.) (Sort of.)

They have their phone handy because it is their sous chef, recipe book, follow-along-video-in-a-pocket-buddy go-to source of everything. In fact, it’s not just Millennials who do this. It’s darn near all of us.

What does this mean for my brand?

Your brand has to show up when people search, share, tweet, message, blog, comment, troll, gram, browse or pin. Put simply: You have to be where your customer is at exactly the right time and place. Unfortunately, that incredibly challenging task is actually the easy part.

The real key—and the real challenge—is being distinctive in all those places so that you stand apart from the surrounding noise and avoid the dreaded thumb-swipe-over. Making simple and compelling content that is meant to be used in the moment as an aid to or with food preparation can be a great way to connect with not-so-confident cooks. A great example: these easy street tacos from Allrecipes. The recipe is a combination of simple ingredients, it requires little preparation and it cooks in less than eight minutes. All delivered through a great mobile friendly user experience.

4. Millennial Cooking Habit: Grocery shopping is a hassle

No one knows this more than the grocery stores themselves. From large national chains like Kroger, Walmart and Target to regional favorites like HyVee and Pick ‘n Save, grocers have adapted their platforms in an attempt to retain and attract a new younger shopper.

Customers now have the option to order their groceries online and either pick them up curbside or have them delivered to their homes at their convenience. This shift is in response to declining store sales from the Millennial buyers and directly aimed at removing the hassle from their shopping experiences.

What does this mean for my brand?

When the consumer has the ability to go directly to their local grocery store’s website and place an order (or a repeat order) for exactly the brands they want — or even easier, the exact same brands they ordered last time — there is little opportunity for a competing brand to disrupt that experience. That means re-thinking traditional journey mapping and path-to-purchase models to consider this new and evolving consumer touchpoint.

Consider thinking about pain-point triggers and developing a strategic approach to addressing those pain points with precise targeting and messaging. Layer in a test-and-learn approach and you can get results in a few weeks instead of months.

Cooking at home has evolved. And from what we see it’s going to continue to evolve even faster. The good news is that it’s not the Millennials’ fault this time. High-speed internet, iPhones, Facebook and Amazon are just as much to blame.

The on-demand revolution

We are in the middle of the on-demand revolution and this change is forcing our attention spans to be spread too thin. We know more about internet personalities like Ninja and the Kardashians than we do about how to prepare our own food (it’s not just Millennials ya know).

But it doesn’t matter because there are more choices than ever that can literally same-day deliver to your home anything you need to survive. And that landscape is changing fast. It’s Blue Apron one day and Amazon’s meal kits the other. It’s GrubHub or EatStreet one day and Amazon’s meal delivery the other.

See a pattern here? All this makes launching or marketing a food product or brand especially challenging. It’s forcing a lot of brands to ask a lot of important questions about path-to-purchase targeting and channels.

Those are important questions, but we’ve found that the most important question to ask first is this: Is your brand ready for an on-demand world?

Todd LaBeau


Quotes John Hughes movies 3x a day. Every. Day.

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