Millennials and Instagram

The Lempert Report
March 28, 2017

The two are a toxic combination for food waste.

Sainsbury’s has released their national supermarket study of the food waste patterns of 5,050 UK consumers, and reveals nearly two-fifths of those aged over 65 say they never waste food, compared with just 17% of those under 35. 

The Guardian reports that the study found that more than half (55%) of 18- to 34-year-olds had a “live to eat” attitude to food – more about pleasure than necessity but with higher shopping bills and more waste. Millennials are also more likely to try unusual recipes to create Instagram-friendly dishes, involving exotic ingredients that are harder to reuse. Hence – more waste. Older generations were more likely to “eat to live” with lower grocery bills and reduced waste. 

The study goes on to say that it is a generation gap in attitudes towards cooking and eating that is helping to fuel the UK’s 15 million tons of food waste problem  that is being driven by time-poor millennials who do not understand the value of the food on their plate.  Something we can extrapolate on this side of the pond as well. It is estimated that half come from household food waste. 

In contrast to savvy older consumers familiar with post-war rationing, the study suggests, those aged 18 to 34 are preoccupied by the visual presentation of food to photograph and share on social media while failing to plan meals, buying too much and then throwing it away. When it comes to throwing away leftovers, 18- to 34-year-olds are the most likely culprits, with 17% of them leaving leftovers three or more times a week.  

“A post-war increase in household food waste is due to changes in how we value choice, time and money in relation to food,” said food historian and broadcaster Dr Polly Russell. “Gone are the days of eating the same food, on the same days of the week, week in, week out. Most people today, particularly younger generations, demand variety. However, with a menu which changes often, it is more challenging to control waste and plan ahead.” 

The over-55s are the most comfortable in the kitchen, the survey found, with just 18% wishing they knew more about managing and cooking food. In contrast, more than half of those aged 18 to 34 admit a lack of culinary know-how.

Younger consumers also fail to plan ahead. Some 20% of those under 35 admit to wasting the most food after a big shopping trip, compared with 8% of 55- to 64-year-olds and just 7% of the 65-plus age group.