This is the 1st insights digest from Segmanta’s brand new study, The Ultimate Food Survey 2020. We surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. consumers to understand their opinions surrounding their eating habits, lifestyles, fast food consumption, and favorite fast food restaurants, etc. 


In light of the remarkably shifted consumer behaviors in 2020, Segmanta presents a brand new study on the freshest declarative consumer insights about humanity’s most widespread passion and ultimate unifier: food. We surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. consumers from the age of 15 to 39, across Generation Z and Millennials, aiming to explore their lifestyles, preferences, tastes, and opinions associated with food. 

Based on the research by McKinsey & Co, together, Generation Z and Millennials hold the purchasing power of roughly $350 Billion in the U.S. By 2020, 40% of the global consumers are Gen Z-ers. The enormous buying potential of the two generations alerts marketers to act fast and smart on the big opportunity.

With people more aware of their health status, major food sectors such as fast food are pushed to improve the quality of food and alternate their services to fit the shifted demands of customers, especially after taking a major hit from the global health crisis this year. In response to the social distancing policies, the closure of restaurants, etc., food industry marketers are hungry for innovative, sustainable business strategies in order to overcome the loss during the unprecedented recession.


Home Kitchen or Fast Food?

In the survey results, older Millennials (30-39 years old) are the most likely (4.4/5.0) to consume home-cooked meals compared to other surveyed age groups. Additionally, the majority (76%) of the surveyed individuals prepare home-made meals at least a few times a week while only 27% claimed they eat fast food more than a few times a week. 

According to research by ReportLinker, home-made food is the preferred way to prepare meals for 98% of U.S. residents. Under the circumstances of long hours of working from home, kids staying at home with school closure, and restricted outdoor travels, the amount of food and effort for home cooking has dramatically increased. 28% of the respondents reported a rise in fast food consumption since the widespread of COVID-19 started. 


Health Concerns About Fast Food Is Not News

According to the respondents who rarely or never consume fast food, the majority (46%) said “Fast food does not have a high enough nutritional value and can be harmful to my health.” was the number one reason. Within this group of individuals who are not particularly passionate about fast food, the younger Millennials were the most likely (61%) to agree, 33% more likely compared to the overall answers. Meanwhile, 37% of the overall respondents believe that fast food quality is not to their satisfaction. Notably, 41% of the older Millennials said they choose home-made food is the main reason they rarely patronize fast-food restaurants. 

Based on a study by Statista, 45% of the U.S. Gen Z and 51% of Millennial consumers always select healthy food while grocery shopping, while 39% of the Americans look for healthy options when consuming fast food. With a mindset of seeking a more health-beneficial fast food experience, customers demand higher nutritional value, and the fast food restaurants are looking to broaden their menus and remove harmful ingredients. According to Forbes, out of health and curiosity motivations, plant-based meat purchases have seen a significant increase, especially amongst highly educated, high-income Millennials.

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Older Millennials Value Convenience, Younger Gen Zers Love The Taste

Convenience is the number one reason (72%) why fast food is attractive to the surveyed Gen Z-ers and Millennials. Further, older Millennials (77%) are 33% more likely to eat fast food out of convenience compared to younger Gen Z-ers (58%). Additionally, the respondents under 18 are the most likely (47%) to fancy the taste of fast food, 70% more likely compared to older Millennials. In our next insights blog post, we will dive deeper into the two generations’ favorite fast food restaurants, fast food items, and how these big fast food chains engage their fans.

The “Must-Have” Fast Food Items

In our survey, we asked consumers how frequently they consume the following fast food by category: burgers, sandwiches, pizza, chicken, world cuisine, and snacks. Amongst who frequently (more than 5 times a month) eat fast food, Gen Z-ers and Millennials both prefer chicken and snacks as their go-to fast food items. 

When asked which items below are the “must-haves” during their typical visit to a fast food restaurant, both generations voted “fries/onion rings” as their top order. Interestingly, older Millennials, who are the most likely (45%) to also have burgers, while the teenage Gen Z-ers believe soft drinks are essential to go along with their fast food meals.

With a fast-paced lifestyle, the two generations certainly appreciate how fries and soda are easy to consume either dining in or on the go.

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Through this study, we observed current trends in the fast food industry and discovered new declarative data points that reflect Gen Z and Millennials’ attitudes towards fast food. The year is 2020. The business world has experienced unprecedented changes. Further, brands now carry different missions to satisfy customers’ demands and to care more for society. New “battlefronts” such as winning over younger generations as well as innovating in food and services have become more challenging for fast food markers and beyond.