CHICAGO — In 2010, Millennials made more than 13 billion of the 59 billion visits to foodservice establishments and spent $73 billion dollars, according to The NPD Group, a leading market research company. The power this demographical segment holds is primarily due to its size: there are 52 million Millennials, ages 18 to 29. Unlike some other adult generations, their number will increase over the next 10 years, primarily due to immigration.

Much of the talk about this generation focuses on its collective behaviors, but a recently released NPD foodservice market research study titled Reaching the Millennial Generation examines the diversity among this age group.

The study investigates what motivates and satisfies Millennials when it comes to foodservice meals and snacks. It finds Millennials represent a diverse generation of varied values, tastes and preferences. To meet Millennials’ interests and needs, foodservice operators will need to offer greater menu variety, the study also found.

“Millennials will overtake Baby Boomers as the most sought-after target for restaurateurs in the coming years,” said Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst and author of the study. “In order to attract this generation, foodservice operators and manufacturers will need to understand both the similarities and differences among Millennials.”

Millennials spend over half of their foodservice dollars on ordering food for takeout, the study states. As a group, they spend a higher percent of their total foodservice dollars than other generations on snacks, and have a higher order incidence of snack food items such as ice cream, nuggets and mini sandwiches.

Millennials differ from one another in a variety ways, including ethnic diversity, the study reveals. One in five Millennials is Hispanic. The working status of those within this age group also differs. Among the 1,933 Millennials surveyed for the report, 47 percent are full-time students, 9 percent are part-time students and 44 percent are not a student. Forty-four percent are not employed, 30 percent work 35 or more hours a week and 32 percent work less than 35 hours a week.

“Millennials are moving into their heavy foodservice using years, and this is the time to reach them to build their loyalty,” Riggs said. “In reaching out to them, it’s important to understand that Millennials are not a one-size-fits-all generation and their needs and wants are varied.”