This is the 5th 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. 


Ever thought about the power of taste buds? The sense of taste can actually contribute to our personalities and behaviors. In this article, we will reveal the unexpected discoveries of “food personalities” (including “adventurous”, “picky”, “emotional”, “passionate”, “mindful”, and “social” eaters) and how they influence consumer preferences amongst Gen Z and Millennials. 

How do these food personalities drive new opportunities for today’s fast food marketers?


Affluent Millennials Have Adventurous Fast Food Tastes

According to our study, older Millennials (30-39 years old) are the most likely (30%) to claim they are Adventurous Eaters (who love to try new food and appreciate innovative food ideas) and Passionate Foodies (21%). This group is the most affluent, most likely to have an annual household income above $75,000, which allows them to afford dining at various styles of restaurants and try new, exotic cuisines from time to time. 

Fast food chains realize that their customers are more eager to explore new food ideas while maintaining a relatively healthy eating habit. Major fast food brands, such as KFC, Starbucks, and Dunkin’ Donuts incorporated plant-based, dairy-free options for their customers, aiming to attract adventurous consumers and health-conscious foodies.

New food phenomena, such as Beyond Meat, are not only alternative meal options for vegetarians and vegans, many Adventurous Eaters are also excited to experiment with modern food technology and extended menu items. Ever tried “Spicy Ghost Pepper Donut”? Dunkin’ Donuts-like fast food chains also choose to mix up the flavors for people with curious tastebuds. Because of the connection between characters and tastes, fast food brands work hard to come up with new flavors to satisfy their customers’ expectations and curiosity. 


Fast Food Lovers In Their 20s Eat Out Of Moods

We saw an astonishing gender split amongst Gen Z and Millennial Emotional Eaters (meaning their eating behaviors are driven by their moods): females are 123% more likely to consume food based on their moods (such as stress, anxiety, etc.). In our previous study State of Gen Z Snackers, we also saw that young, female consumers tend to snack when experiencing negative emotions. Meanwhile, 39% of the older Gen Z-ers (19-24 years old) also said that fast food “satisfies a craving due to stress, boredom, or anxiety”. 

Younger Millennials (25-29 years old) are the most likely to claim they are Emotional Eaters (19%). We saw 30% of this age group frequently (at least a few times a week) eat fast food. During the pandemic period, 29% of the younger Millennials reported increased fast food consumption.

Here are the Emotional Eaters’ favorite fast food according to the survey results: McDonald’s burgers (56%), Domino’s pizza (56%), Chik-fil-a’s chicken meals (55%), Dairy Queen’s snacks (48%), and Taco Bell’s Mexican cuisine (64%).

In the time of COVID-19, the amount of unprecedented stress and anxiety might lead to overconsuming “guilty pleasure” food. Fast food is known for its enjoyable and fulfilling taste. Many choose to cope with the lockdown sorrows with a nice meal from their favorite fast food brands. In order to provide a pleasant experience while the usual in-store customers were forced to stay home, Blaze Pizza and Dunkin’ Donuts introduced meal-kits for their customers to enjoy DIY toppings while spending quality time with the family. In many fast food commercials, the brands also sent out messages to display empathy and to remind their fans to stay connected


Brands Are Juggling Flavors To Win Over Gen Z & Millennials

We asked respondents to select their favorite flavor and we found a link between “food personality” and taste preference: the people who love umami flavor (45%) and spicy flavor (39%) are the most likely to be Adventurous Eaters while sweet-tooths are the most likely to be Emotional Eaters and Picky Eaters(22%).

Exotic world cuisine fast food brands, such as Panda Express, Chipotle, and Taco Bell, are known for their abundant options of cultural flavors. These fast food chains continue to incorporate typical foreign tastes into their menus. McDonald’s, Popeyes, and Chik-fil-a embrace the umami flavor in their classic chicken sandwiches while Burger King, Wendy’s, and McDonald’s compete with each other over spicy chicken nuggets to win over customers who pursue a flaming hot fast food experience.

Want to find your own insights?

Throughout our consumer understanding studies, psychographic data has always been an important focus. Understanding consumers’ mindsets is fundamentally critical for food preferences. Additionally, interpreting the emotional indicators behind eating behaviors provides a better consumer understanding in order to innovate menus and services. For brands and marketers, segmenting audiences into personas by leveraging declarative insights plays an increasingly strategic role in better connecting with their customers.  

In our next Segmanta declarative insights digest, we will look into the lifestyles of Gen Z and Millennial fast food fans and the relationship between “fast food personalities” and consumer preferences.