New Research: Millennials Favor Protein Powered Meals and Flavor Adventures

Posted by: Jeff Fromm

With obesity levels still high in America, it makes sense that most American consumers are starting to think about eating healthier. While the bad news is that more than two-thirds of Americans were overweight or obese in 2014, the good news is that nearly all consumers are trying to improve at least one of their eating habits, according to the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation.

Millennials are extremely invested in eating healthier and living a more active lifestyle. More than other generations, millennials are transitioning from a fear of calories and carbs to a more balanced diet that includes calories, carbs and fats (heaven forbid!).

As we quickly move into the New Year, we can expect to see a shift in major food and health trends. Crash diets like low carb, low fat, and sugar free are loosing popularity quickly and more protein driven diets like the Paleo food trend are gaining interest among millennials. We are seeing that when it comes to millennial diets, it is less about restriction and more about a well-balanced protein powered meal.

Embracing a protein powered health movement

The latest trend in the healthy lifestyle is the incorporation of lean meats and other protein sources into the diet. Recent millennial research from the IFIC Foundation found that in a list of popular nutrients and ingredients, protein is the number one food that Millennials are trying to consume.

Interestingly, within this group, millennial women, those between the ages of 26 and 29, and millennials with an average annual income between $35k and $74k are trying consume more protein. These young adults agree with a variety of statements about protein and health benefits, agreeing that it is important to get enough protein in the diet, protein can be part of a heart healthy diet, protein can help maintain muscle during aging, and protein can enhance recovery from exercise. However, only one in two millennials agree that packaged foods can be a healthful source of protein, indicating that millennials are not fully aware of the convenient, on-the go brands that align with these new food desires.

Although millennials view protein favorably and see the importance of protein in their diets, there is still a wide range of misconceptions surrounding protein. Cost is the top barrier cited by millennials for lack of protein consumption, as many believe that there are more inexpensive ways to live healthier lives. Millennials are also more likely to believe that they already get enough protein throughout the day. Additionally, ease of preparation and storage is a major consideration for millennial protein consumers. When compared to the general population, more millennials (21 percent) think that foods with protein will spoil if not used quickly (15 percent).

So, what does this mean for you?

As many food CPG and restaurant brands, ranging from meats all the way to health bars, are attempting to target a growing population of health-conscious millennials, these findings are extremely relevant to creating the right messaging strategy. While the majority of the market continues to focus on low-calorie and low-sugar, there is an enormous amount of untapped potential for brands to share their protein halo stories.

Two major millennial trends for food brands to take into consideration: 

Adventure: Millennials look for brands that provide exploration and experiences. When it comes to food, they are looking for new flavor adventures. How can you build into the already popular protein trends like the Mediterranean diet by offering the full Mediterranean experience? Brands that can deliver on food trends such as high-protein and health conscious options alongside exciting flavor innovations will win with millennial consumers.

Intersection of the Physical & Digital World: Millennials are prosumers meaning they are no longer passively making purchases. Instead, they are using their phones as they are walking down the grocery aisle scanning, comparing and analyzing products using their connections to a multitude of resources and networks. Millennials turn to digital devices for a number of reasons, one being education about the brand and products they want to engage with. In-store education can no longer be the norm. What content are you publishing online that can be found and shared amongst their networks?

As health trends continue to evolve in our market, Millennials will be the demographic leading those changes. Understanding how to connect with this new generation of conscious eaters is imperative if your restaurant or CPG brand is aiming to connect with this influential generation of consumers.

*IFIC Foundation provided research for this article

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About Jeff Fromm

Although not a Millennial as defined by his age, Jeff Fromm is the Millennial Marketing Guy. Jeff is President of FutureCast, a marketing consultancy that specializes in Millennial trends, and is a contributing writer at...See Jeff's full bio.