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Millennials may spend 73% more than traditional BBQMillennials may spend 73% more than traditional BBQ

Traditional barbeque costs $69.05 versus $119 for Millennial's gathering.

Krissa Welshans 1

July 1, 2016

4 Min Read
Millennials may spend 73% more than traditional BBQ

This July 4 holiday, Americans everywhere will enjoy the age-old tradition of a backyard barbeque. While shoppers can expect to see prices drop on some of the most widely used barbeque essentials this year – food items like protein, some cheeses and ice cream – the Rabobank BBQ Index highlights an interesting trend known as the "Millennial barbeque," which could cost Millennial shoppers a staggering 73% more than a traditional barbeque.


This is the first year Rabobank has analyzed the cost of the Millennial barbeque due, in part, to the fact that Millennials make up nearly 25% of American consumers and because the palpable shift in their purchasing preferences is forcing large food and beverage companies to take notice.

"The $200 billion spending power of the Millennial generation — which, just this year, has surpassed boomers as the largest generation — is proving to be very disruptive," said Nick Fereday, executive director of Food & Consumer Trends at Rabobank. "Although they're a diverse, multicultural cohort, a few generalizations still ring true: They're more experimental in their food and beverage choices, health conscious (seeking fewer processed foods) and they also appear to be willing to spend a greater share of their income on food."

Each year, the Rabobank BBQ Index uses data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to check prices and track changes for everything from burgers to produce to ice cream. Since 2004, when the average cost of feeding 10 people at a barbeque was just $51.90, the price has steadily increased. This Independence Day, hosts of a traditional barbeque can expect to pay a total of $69.05, up 83 cents from last year. The largest price fluctuations can be seen in beef prices (down 9.8%), chicken (down 7.2%) and beer (up 6.2%).

Those relatively moderate price shifts don't seem to apply to today's Millennial hosts, however.

"We're seeing some really fascinating trends when it comes to consumer purchase preferences among Millennials," said Ross Colbert, head of Food & Agribusiness Research at Rabobank. "Knowing the age group's partialities to food labels such as organic, local, free-range and artisanal, for a party of 10, the Millennial host is averaging $11.91 per guest, or just over $119 total. The discrepancy between the two barbeques is enormous."

In 2017, Millennials will officially represent the U.S. age group with the greatest spending power and will account for almost 30% of the population. "This is, largely speaking, a price-inelastic group of purchases, which has massive impact on their food and beverage preferences" Colbert said.

2016 BBQ Index breakdown

Meat: Last year, beef represented the main driver of barbeque costs, having made a 40% price jump from 2010 to 2015. In 2016, however, that cost is dropping back down, falling to $3.82/lb. While the standard beef generally purchased for a traditional barbeque has dropped in cost, the grass-fed beef more frequently purchased by Millennial shoppers has jumped in price by more than $1 since 2015, ringing in at just under $10/lb. In fact, Rabobank said almost 70% of Millennials report that knowing the origin of their beef is important in their purchasing decisions.

Dairy: While commodity cheese inventories are up, essentially driving the price down, there has been strong demand growth in the specialty cheese sector, including bleu cheese. It is a natural product with a high value add due to its specialized processing and has proved popular among food-centric pop culture in the U.S.  The limited production capacity, paired with the demand, has driven up the price, the report notes.

Beverages: The price trends in beverage purchases show a stark difference between traditional and Millennial barbeques. While the price of beer has increased just over 6%, coming in at $1.37 per 16 oz. can, Millennials tend to gravitate toward higher-end alcoholic beverages such as craft beer and small-batch spirits. The price premiums that come with craft spirits account for a large portion of the Millennial price tag, and today's popular choices, such as tequila and bourbon, have driven recent growth in the spirits sector.

Bread/snacks: A January 2016 Mintel study found that 47% of consumers want their burgers on more premium buns and that the number of Brioche buns on burger menus has increased by 59% in the last three years. Brioche is seen as a premium product in its sector due to the eggs, butter, milk, cream and sugar added during the production process, which gives the bun its pastry-like texture.

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