Millennials have often unfairly been labelled as the cohort of lazy job-hoppers who are terrified of commitment and like to party too much. However, the reality for Generation Y is actually much different. Studies have suggested that those born between 1980 and 2000 are putting more into their pensions and lead healthier lifestyles than their predecessors, Generation X.
Not only are they financially prudent and more considerate about what they eat, but they are also the first generation in history to grow up fully immersed in the internet; millennials are the most digitally literate and media savvy generation ever. More specifically, they are experts in social media. Apps such as Facebook and Instagram not only provide businesses and restaurants with a relatively cheaper form of advertising than traditional methods, but they have also profoundly changed the way consumers choose their food and drink.
Unlike their parents, who often had to go on recommendations or by choosing a menu they simply liked the look of, millennials can now take to Instagram to see what a restaurant’s food or a cocktail bar’s drinks actually look like, rather than pouring over reams of text for culinary stimulation. We eat with our eyes, as the old adage goes. Research conducted by Instagram suggests that 75 per cent of its users say they take action after being inspired by a post, while 60 per cent admit that they discover new products on the popular app.
And a study carried out by the chain Zizzi revealed that 30 per cent of 18-35 year-olds said that they would avoid a restaurant if their Instagram presence was weak. Is it any wonder then that our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds are filled with eateries and bars uploading aesthetically pleasing photos of their eggs benedict and mojito cocktails? Businesses are fully clued-up to the fact that a nicely crafted photo of their products is likely to get shared, resulting in increased exposure and therefore giving them an edge over their competitors. While millennials are chronic social media users, they are also going to the gym more than previous generations.
Research suggests that they are actually enjoying it too, and tend to invest more in their health. This increased pursuit of fitness and clean living has seen consumer trends veer towards organic products, as well as those high in protein. Where consumer trends shift, brands tend to follow. In the past few years we have seen supermarket favourites such as Nakd and Weetabix add protein to their products, muscling in on and exploiting the once niche ‘high protein’ market. This has led New Food magazine to report that the explosion in demand for protein means that the market is set to reach £8 billion by the end of 2017.
— Deliveroo (@Deliveroo) 23 September 2017
The fusion of Silicon Valley technology and digitally literate millennials has enabled a once unfathomable amount of choice, often at our fingertips. With apps such as Deliveroo turning over in excess of £100 million per year, restaurants face an unprecedented amount of competition; in order to survive they need to offer variety, be creative and continue to innovate. The boundless intrusion of the internet into our lives means that the once unfathomable is becoming the conventional.
More from Matthew Mathers, our senior food & drink editor @MattEm90