RICKI Study Probes Kitchen Tastes of 'Gen Y' Consumers

CHARLOTTE, NC — As the Baby Boom generation did before them, "Generation Y" is sparking major changes in the marketplace - from design aesthetics to delivery channels - including a different concept of "kitchens" than their older, Baby Boom counterparts.

That’s one of several key findings of a major new study conducted by the Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence (RICKI), a Charlotte, NC-based research organization specializing in the kitchen remodeling sector. The aim of the study, conducted online in March among 800 Gen Yers, was to assess the differences between this youngest population of adult consumers and their older counterparts when it comes to kitchen product and style preferences, as well as kitchen remodeling plans.

While many analysts and marketers tend to focus on the size and enormous buying power of the 79 million Baby Boomers – the largest generation in U.S. history – Generation Y, at 76 million young adults, is approximately the same size, observed RICKI executive director Brenda Bryan.

“However,” Bryan said, “their tastes and lifestyles are distinct in many ways.”

According to Bryan, Generation Y consumers – aged 18-29, and sometimes referred to as the “Millennial Generation,” “Echo Boomers” or “Generation Next” – “bring different backgrounds, tastes, experiences and expectations with them to the cash register.”

“As Generation Y moves into the housing and home remodeling markets in ever-larger numbers, it’s critical to understand how they differ from adults in other generations,” Bryan said.

According to the findings of the RICKI study, released exclusively to Kitchen & Bath Design News, the definition of “kitchen” is morphing from a traditional space for cooking meals to an all-around living space – and Gen Y appears to be embracing this trend whole-heartedly. Likely living in smaller spaces as adults, and having grown up in their parents’ homes with open floor plans and “great rooms” as standard, Gen Y considers the kitchen less the “heart of the home” and more of a “place to hang out,” Bryan noted.
Among the other key differences from older kitchen consumer cohorts, RICKI said, are:

While some two out of five Gen Yers (42%) and adults overall (39%) said they are “extremely” or “very” satisfied with their current kitchens, a majority of Americans across generations are not entirely happy with their kitchens (see Table below). Gen Yers’ complaints about their current kitchens stem largely from appliances that are old or not functional, and kitchens that are too small (see Table below).

The study findings clearly point to meaningful generational differences when it comes to younger consumers’ level of satisfaction with products in their current kitchens. For example, Gen Y is significantly less satisfied than are adults overall with their kitchen’s dishwasher, cooking equipment, refrigerator and cabinets. In contrast, satisfaction with their kitchen faucets, sinks, ventilation/hoods and countertops is about the same among Gen Y as it is for other generations.

While half of Gen Y study participants are renters – or, in some cases, still living with their parents – a significant number say they’re ready to remodel, have the financial wherewithal to do it, and are significantly more likely than their older counterparts to have either made recent improvements to their kitchens or have plans to.

“While these data do not necessarily mean they are doing more major remodels, Gen Yers are focused on making their kitchen experiences better, even if it means improving just some aspects of their kitchens,” Bryan commented.

Gen Yers are more drawn to contemporary styling than adults in other generations. For example, they’re far more likely than adults overall to say they prefer a “modern” or “contemporary” kitchen. They’re also far more open to out-of-the ordinary finishes. For example, when asked which finish or color they prefer for appliances, a slight majority of respondents in all generations say they prefer stainless. In contrast, Gen Y respondents are much more likely than others to say they prefer black appliances.

“The lives of Gen Y are in flux and less predictable than older adults,” said Bryan. “Marketers and product developers who find ways to ease their burdens may be able to cut through the clutter and win over this generation.

“As Generation Y consumers move into their prime earning years, there are ways for designers, retailers and manufacturers to stand out to this segment – and real opportunities to profit,” Bryan added. “By understanding the way they think and what they consider ‘cool,’ companies can develop successful products and marketing strategies.”