Healthy eating: a lifestyle choice for 1 in 2 Millennials

Gaelle Betrand, Head of Brand Insight, Kantar Media

A number of studies published recently note that Healthy Eating is a growing concern for Millennials (those born roughly between the early 1980s and late 1990s) and that these younger consumers are willing to pay a premium to guarantee the provenance and sustainability of the food they eat.

We turned to social media conversations (what better source with 90% of millennials living their lives online) to understand UK millennials’ eating habits and their perceptions of foods. Of the hundred thousand or so conversations about healthy eating in the past 8 months on public social media networks, 85% were by Millennials, indicating their pre-occupation with this issue.

Healthy eating is a way of life

We found that over half of conversations were from users stating that they were eating healthily or trying to eat healthily, and while conversation peaked around New Year and resolution time, volumes remained constant outside these periods, indicating that on the whole healthy eating is a way of life rather than a fad for Millennials.

Furthermore, only 1 in 10 conversations were about eating healthily to lose weight, further evidencing healthy eating is a long-term goal for this new generation of consumers.

This appears to contrast starkly with the baby-boomer generation who had looked at changing their eating habits to lose weight rather than adopt healthy-eating as a long-term lifestyle choice.

It is interesting to see that vegan and vegetarian diets were strongly associated with healthy eating, being mentioned in 1 in 3 conversations, illustrating that meat-free diets are perceived as healthier, as opposed to the fat-free or carb-free diet trends of the past 30 years.

Life on show

Documenting on social media channels has become a significant part of UK social media users’ lives since the advent of Instagram. A recent study from Olapic shows that emotional validation is the key motivation for frequent posting and sharing on social media, with Millennials being the most active when it comes to sharing content. Healthy eating is no exception. Our analysis found one in five posts documenting healthy eating habits by sharing pictures of meals, with each main meal accounting for quarter of posts and a further quarter documenting snacking occasions. This follows the trend of recent years for staging and posting aesthetically pleasing meal pictures on Instagram.

But it also appears that beyond validation, sharing pictures of healthy eating on social media may have a positive impact on motivations, according to recent study by the University of Washington, which found that posting on social media channels helps individuals hold themselves accountable for the quality of their diet - like a virtual food journal.

This is something we also observed when looking at former obese patients in Latin America sharing their exercise and diet routines with their followers and friends on Instagram in a bid to maintain their weight loss and stick to a healthy lifestyle.

A little bit of something you fancy…

Some users admitted to succumbing to temptation from time to time, mainly chocolate, pizza or McDonald’s. It would therefore appear that despite McDonald’s drive to remove artificial flavours, colours and corn syrup from some of its foods to appeal to this generation, the fast-food giant’s food is still perceived as a guilty pleasure while on a healthy eating lifestyle.

Conversations taking place on social media among Millennials about healthy eating confirm that healthy eating is a way of life for this younger generation, highlighting the need for food brands and retailers to focus on ingredients and provenance to earn this consumers’ trust.

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