Teen Food Spending Hits New High

Jim Liebelt

*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on Nation's Restaurant News.

Teen spending on food has hit a new high in Piper Jaffray’s twice-a-year survey of that age group, with limited-service brands like Starbucks and McDonald’s leading preferences.

The “Spring 2017 Taking Stock With Teens” survey of nearly 5,500 students found the largest spending category was food, reaching 24 percent and passing clothing for the first time. In spring 2014, spending on food had been 18 percent.

“We believe this reflects the restaurant industry's arguably less discretionary nature as a category of spending relative to other consumer (discretionary) categories,” noted Piper Jaffray & Co. analysts Nicole Miller Regan and Joshua Long.

“On a brand basis,” the analysts said, “we note Starbucks remains a highly preferred brand amongst all teens and, more specifically, No. 1 among average income teens.” It was the most preferred brand among 12 percent of both upper and average-income teens.

Piper Jaffray surveyed 1,393 students in an upper-income student data set, with an average age of 16.4 years and a weighted average household income of about $100,000. The firm also surveyed about 4,109 students in the average-income student data set, with an average age of 16.4 years and a weighted average household income of about $54,000.

The survey also reflected “a shift in preference toward the limited-service segment, which has increased to 67 percent preference during the last 17 [half-year] survey cycles.”

Piper Jaffray’s spring 2017 survey found Chipotle made strides among teens after suffering traffic declines in the wake of 2015’s foodborne illnesses.

“Chipotle remained the third most preferred public brand among upper-income teens (8 percent mindshare vs. 11 percent in Fall 2016) and moved up to the fourth most preferred brand among average income teens,” the survey noted. “Among average-income teens Chipotle improved in rank order (to No. 3 from  No. 4) and mindshare (to 5 percent from 4 percent) vs. Fall 2016.”

Teens continued to shift their spending to quick-service and fast-casual brands from full-service restaurants, the Piper Jaffray spring study found.

“In spring 2009,” the survey noted, “full-service concepts had a 57 percent preference, which has slowly shifted toward a preference for limited-service concepts now at 67 percent in spring 2017.”

Among factors that were driving teen food spending decisions, Piper Jaffray said taste again ranked the highest among students. “Nutrition maintained its position as the lowest-ranked attribute of influence,” the study noted.

Convenience stayed at the No. 2 position, which has been consistent since fall 2014.

As for daypart breakdown among food purchases by teens, the survey found breakfast captured 2 percent of meal occasions, lunch 18 percent and dinner 65 percent.

Source: Nation's Restaurant News