America’s twenty-somethings, known as the Millennial generation or generation Y, are connected, confident, and tend to live in the moment when it comes to making food choices, says market researcherThe NPD Group, Chicago.

NPD says its latest research suggests Millennials are more likely to say their food choices at main meals are motivated bycravings, cost control,andminimal preparation time.

According to NPD’s National Eating Trends®, Millennials’ food selections indicate a "here-today-gone tomorrow" mentality. They are much more likely than consumers in other age groups to usefrozen entrees or other food items that are portableand do not require preparation.

As with most of these food offerings, there is usually little opportunity for leftovers, which correlates to their relatively low rate of leftover usage. National Eating Trends reports that a typical Millennial has 68 meals a year that contain a leftover item, but adults in their 30s to early 40s are using leftovers in 82 meals a year. 

In addition to convenience, cost control is a major motivation for Millennials, and frozen food and other convenience-oriented food products often provide relatively inexpensive meal solutions.

“Cost concern is particularly important to this age group since they have been among the hardest hit by the recession,” says Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst for The NPD Group. “The unemployment rate for adults under 30 was 19.5% for the second quarter of 2010, a rate more than double the 9.5% seen for the total workforce.”

Millennials are coping with their economic challenges by making use of low-priced retailers. National Eating Trends finds that one-third of Millennials use mass merchants, such as Walmart, as their primary food store, compared to 23 percent for all adults.

“The Millennial generation has grown up in a time of tremendous technological advances, coupled with new societal norms,” says Seifer. “They are connected like no other generation before them. This connectedness is both an opportunity and challenge for marketers. Communicating with – and selling to – Millennials requires an understanding of their attitudes and behaviors.”