Operators Should be Focusing Marketing Efforts on Life Stages, Not Generational Grouping  


There was a time when millennials were considered one big generational group. At the time, their behaviours were attributed to their generation instead of their age or life stage — similar to the way Gen Zs are currently being described. Now that millennials are older and vary in their life stages — single, married, parents — some of their behaviours with regard to food consumption and planning are similar to those of the generations that preceded them. Other behaviours are based on generational attitudes and values.

Parents with children in the household, whether millennials or Gen-Xers, invest more time in preparing dinner. The majority of meals are prepared and consumed in-home and take between 10 and 59 minutes to prepare and cook. Interestingly, these types of dinners are forecast to grow over the next five years, according to recent research by The NPD Group.

An example of a generational trait that sets millennials apart from Gen-Xers is the belief that as long as they play a part in the meal-preparation process, then it’s “homemade.” They don’t have to literally make the whole thing from scratch for it to be considered homemade in their eyes. Gen-Xers, on the other hand — having grown up exposed to in-home cooking from scratch — acknowledge the difference between a homemade and a partially prepared meal.

Now a new generation is being examined and observed — Generation Z, those born between 1997 to present and a larger group than millennials. Many Gen-Zs, a cohort NPD recently studied for its Make It Happen for Gen Zs report, were raised by Gen-X parents who taught them to understand the purpose of food and how it fits into a well-lived life. As a result, this generational cohort has set expectations that food and food brands will follow their needs and not the other way around.

When older Gen-Zs — now young adults — plan dinner, they exhibit the same life-stage behaviours that millennials and other generations did as young adults. They’re constantly blurring the line between access (how fast it gets to them) and convenience (how easy it is to use). The Gen-Z generation differs from other generations in that they’re growing up in a globally connected and fast-paced world and they expect flavours of the world to be available. This is a generational behavior trait that will most likely follow them through their life stages.

Clearly, behaviour is tied to life stages, not generational grouping. It’s a common oversight to not age generations or recognize how life stage can impact behaviour. To understand the difference between generational and life-stage behaviours enables operators to develop products, menus and marketing messages more relevant to their target consumer audiences.

Written By Robert Carter

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