A Comparison of Consumer Behaviour Between Millennials and Baby Boomers in Health Products Consumer Behaviour - MKT9117M


Which generations do we have?

There has been the appearance of three generations since the mid-20th to the beginning of 21st centuries including:

  • Baby Boomers
  • Generation X
  • Millennials (sometimes called Generation Y)
Baby Boomers is a phrase used to describe people who were born from the end of World War II to the early 1960s (Wallop, 2014).
Steve Jobs
Bill Gates
Donald Trump
Millennials (sometimes called Generation Y or Gen. Y) is “the generation born between 1982 and sometimes in the early 2000s” (Brown, 2017, 5).
Britney Spears
Justin Timberlake
Emma Watson

Cornwell et al. (2008, 51-71) state that consumer behaviour could be affected by various factors such as the physical environment, family, friends, and kinds of organisations or institutions. They make dependent relationships, which affect directly to consumer decision making process (ibid). Accordingly, Millennials would have some similarities as well as differences in purchasing behaviour with previous generation.

In the view of this, this essay will compare the consumer behaviour of Millennials to that of Baby Boomers in terms of healthy eating related to the area of health products.

Main Body

Healthy eating

There are various definitions for the term of “healthy eating”.

For example, according to Nordqvist (2015), “Healthy eating means consuming the right quantities of foods from all food groups in order to lead a healthy life”.

This means that people should have a balanced diet based on five main food groups, including whole grains, fruit and vegetable, protein, dairy, and fat and sugar (ibid).

Whole grains examples include oats, barley, brown rice, corn and quinoa
Fruit and vegetable
Protein-rich food group: steak, chicken, eggs
Dairy food group: milk, cheese, cream, butter
Fat and sugar group: oil, mayonaise, cake

Similarly, NHS (2016) also determines that a healthy and balanced diet comes from eating a wide variety of food in the right percentages as well as the right amount consumption of food and drink to ensure a healthy body weight.

Besides, Nikolova and Inman (2015, 817) claim that taking actions related to improve their eating habits has begun to be paid more attention by consumers when nutrition has become a key factor in grocery shopping decisions.

Or in a report of Mintel (2017) about the attitudes towards healthy eating in the UK in 2016, they state that healthy eating is becoming more widespread when there are 63% adult consumers who confirm to eat healthily at least most of time, up from 58% in 2015.

FIGURE 1: How often consumers try to eat healthily, November 2015 and November 2016 in the UK

Source: Lightspeed/Mintel

On the other hand, in a research study about the consumer attitude of Catalina Marketing (2010), they point out that shoppers are quite difficult to change their old purchasing habits, behaviour, and perception despite their knowledge in healthier products.

Furthermore, the consumer behaviour model of Hawkins and Mothersbaugh (2013) also states that the external as well as internal influences play a fundamental role in setting up consumers’ cognitive as well as intention, and lead therefore to their purchase behaviour then.

Source: http://integratedmarketingcommications.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/black-box-model-consumer-behaviour.html

According to this view, the essay will apply the factor of demographics, one of the external influences in the model of Hawkins and Mothersbaugh (2013), based on three common attributes, including age, education and occupation to identify the differences and similarities in consumer behaviour between Millennials and Baby Boomers in regard of healthy food.

Main Differences

Firstly, one of the characteristics of demographics which can affect to consumer behaviour is education. It cannot deny that education can help people more knowledge and skills, and lead therefore to change their concepts in life.

However, obviously, Millennials have a huge benefit compared to Baby Boomers in this aspect because they are “digital natives”, who are born and grow up in the technology era, and “have their lifelong experience in communication and media technologies” (Euromonitor, 2017). They can approach various sources to support for their studying; thus, their concepts are also more modern.

For example, the consumer definition of “healthy eating” vary from Gen. Y to Baby Boomers with a trend-based meaning such as high protein, high vitamin, etc. of the younger and more traditional definitions like low fat and less calories of older generation (PwC, 2016).

Obviously, the younger pays attention to nutritious products which support them to build muscles mass, balance hormones naturally, and have a healthy and fit body while the elderly’s concerns are related to cardiovascular disease.

This explains why Millennials prefer to buy protein-rich food, including eggs, beef, chicken breast, whey protein shake, dairy products like yoghurt, cheese, etc.

... while Baby Boomers have a trend to choose fruits and cereals, such as grapes, cherries, oats, etc. more than red meat when shopping in grocery.

The second difference is made by the age of consumers.

It can be seen that at the present time, the range of age of Baby Boomers generation is approximately between 55 and 70 – it is the time that they retired, developed healthy ailments, and became empty nesters, which made them change eating and drinking habits (Hartman, 2016).

For instance, the elderly is in a quite high demand for calcium and vitamin D to “maintain bone strength and keep bones healthy during older age” (Dairy Council, 2011).

Consequently, they need to consume more calcium-rich food listed as dairy products like milk, cheese and yoghurt, and non-dairy food like dark leafy greens including spinach, broccoli and collard greens to contribute to maintenance of normal bones, especially when they live in a country which has a little sunlight.

Dairy products
Dark leafy greens

On the other hand, Millennials are aged between 17 and 35 so they do not have to require a high demand for these kinds of food.

Alternatively, the young adults concentrate on the healthy and balanced diet, and prefer to buy chocolate bars, protein milk and kinds of energy drink to support them in building muscles accompanied by gym exercises.

In detail, in a survey of Mintel about the US energy drink market, they point out that older Millennials are the key consumers of many popular beverage brands like Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Red Bull in spite of concerns about the safety of energy drinks (Bailey, 2015).

Another characteristic which also shows the differences in consumer behaviour between Millennials and Baby Boomers is their occupation.

In general, most of Baby Boomers have retired at this range of age, so they have more time to go shopping in various supermarkets to prepare healthier and more delicious meals by themselves.

Meanwhile, the majority of Gen. Y is students, officers, workers and others, and they love convenient but nutritious meals, for example, a sandwich and a glass of coffee for a healthy afternoon meal. According to Thompson (2016), these young shoppers prefer to go out for a meal at restaurants and bars, order online just by a click on their smartphones, and snag groceries at convenience stores instead of supermarkets.

A healthy afternoon meal

In short, the main differences in consumer behaviour among two these generations can be shown via their education, age and occupation as explained above. These factors make different self-concept and lifestyle which lead to the differences in consumer decision making process. On the other hand, there are still some similarities in purchasing behaviour of Millennials and Baby Boomers.

main similarities

Although education make differences in purchasing behaviour between Gen. Y and Baby Boomers in terms of healthy eating, it cannot deny that education also brings some same views among two these generations because they are popular modes.

For example, in some countries where there has still been the appearance of both supermarkets and traditional markets like Vietnam, most of people including the older and younger consumers believe that buying fish, meat, vegetables, and kinds of other seafood like mussel, octopus, shrimp, etc. should be made in markets because they are fresher, more qualified and full of nutrition when compared to frozen and processed ones in supermarkets.

A traditional market

Another example is about the benefits of semi-skimmed milk.

A variety of milk choices

According to Mintel (2016), semi-skimmed milk has still continued to be the most commonly used milk type in the UK because British consumers have been pushed in a long-term time to reduce the saturated fat content consumed on a daily basis and to believe that whole milk is higher-fat.

Whole milk or semi-skimmed milk?

This explain why 67% of milk users consume semi-skimmed milk compared to just 30% for using full-fat milk among British consumers in February 2016 (ibid).

FIGURE 2: Usage of milk and milk drinks, by type, February 2016 in the UK

* eg Cravendale, Tesco Pure ** eg Flora ProActiv. Source: Lightspeed GMI/Mintel

In short, education makes not only differences but also similarities in consumer behaviour among two these generations.


In conclusion, it can be seen that consumer behaviour can be impacted by the influence of demographics, based on 3 common attributes like education, age and occupation, as shown in the model of Hawkins and Mothersbaugh (2013). In detail, the healthy eating purchasing behaviour of Millennials and Baby Boomers have some differences because of their different education, age and occupation as mentioned above. However, it cannot deny that these characteristics, for example education, can also contribute to the similarities in healthy food consumption among two these generations.

Therefore, it is necessary that marketers should identify clearly whose target customers are, which their main characteristics are, and how they can be appealed to build suitable marketing strategies which can engage with their customers and meet their needs. For example, Business Insider (2015) claims that both generations like shopping online and therefore, marketers can pay more attention to this aspect to get more profit from online purchasing.


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Created By
Oanh Nguyen


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