Millennial, gen Z grocery shopping habits change as cost of living increases: Study

Leger’s sixth annual Youth Study sheds light on how rising cost of living is impacting the two generational cohorts
gen z millennial grocery

Millennials and gen Z are important audiences for the grocery sector, as Canadians between the ages of 16 to 40 are in one of these two generational cohorts.  

Like a lot of the population, they are feeling the squeeze of cost-of-living increases. Leger’s sixth annual Youth Study sheds some light on how inflation is changing their behvaiour. 

The study is based on a survey of 3,015 Canadians, with respondents divided almost equally between millennials (28 to 40 years of age) and gen Zers (16 to 27 years of age). Among all respondents, 39% were homeowners, 33% were renting and 26% were living with their parents. 

When the Youth Study asked if rising cost of living has made them change their financial habits in seven key areas, “foods” was said second-most, at 68% of respondents, behind only “saving money” (73%). 

“Foods” was followed by “bar and restaurants” and “clothing” (both 67%), “leisure and sports activities” (59%), “cultural outings” (53%) and “regular payment of your credit card or bills” (48%). 

“The rising cost of living has impacted younger generations’ financial habits all around,” said Alison Watson, vice president, public affairs, Western Canada, at Leger, during a webinar, Generation Z and Millennials: Discover their Views on Their Employment, Finances and Future, about the study results. “Quite frankly, we see [inflation] affecting them at higher levels than last year.” 

The study also revealed that over one-quarter of young people (29%) consider their personal finances to be in poor shape, more so with millennials than gen Z (32% versus 25%). 

Only 22% of respondents said, “My personal finances are in good shape.” 

In addition, 51% of respondents said they live paycheque to paycheque, up from 48% in 2022. “We see this proportion being higher among millennials compared to gen Z, as well,” said Watson. 

A lot of this has to do with shelter costs. Nearly half of homeowners said their mortgages take up too much of their expenses (45%, up from 42% last year) while almost three-in-four renters (72%) feel their rent takes up too large a potion of their expenses. 

Climate change worries

Leger’s Youth Study this year also looked at the attitudes of millennials and gen Z around the planet’s future.

More respondents than last year, 60% versus 53%, reported being concerned about the impact of climate change. 

The study also looked at their employment and found 15% of young Canadians intend to quit their jobs in the next year (although there was a gap between the two cohorts, with 22% of gen Zers saying so versus 11% of millennials.) 

The desire for a higher salary was given as the primary reason (50%) for quitting. But 19% also said it was the fact that, “the employer’s mission doesn’t resonate with me,” and this reason gained significant year-over-year traction with gen Z. 

Among respondents ages 16 to 27, wanting to feel aligned with their employer’s mission was the reason 21% of them wanted to quit their existing job, up from just 8% in 2022. 

Nikolas Lopez, senior research director at Leger, sees a direct correlation between rising concern of climate change and employer brands. 

“Knowing that the climate crisis is an important issue facing young people, I think it's incredibly important for organizations to talk about what they are doing as partners in addressing climate change,” said Lopez during the webinar.

“Not every industry is the same as it relates to climate change, but there are real applications in food and beverage to combat food waste and use of plastics, so really communicating that, ‘We don't just talk the talk, we walk it, as well,’ [is important],” he added. “Young folks want to feel like they're part of something more than just themselves.” 


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