Millennial consumers pose an interesting challenge for food retailers in that their desires, like those of all generations, are an amalgam of how old they are and the times in which they live. In some ways, their desires echo those of Boomers when they were young adults — except that millennials came of age in an era of rampant technology and mobility, and during a recession that hit them harder than most.
Their goals are not especially unique: They want to build careers, spend time with friends and travel. But millennial shopping and eating behaviors are exceptional, and as the largest generation since the Boomers, their choices have a big impact on overall consumer trends.
In that way, they are a sort of barometer for future consumer behavior and warrant retailers’ close attention. It’s worth knowing, for example, that millennials shop all channels and tend to go most regularly to stores in close proximity. They connect with brands that have good prices, similar values and a personality they can connect with — particularly one that’s playful and quirky and appeals to their sense of irony. At this age, they enjoy experiences more than traditional status and wealth symbols — and they prefer intimate retail experiences that include knowledgeable, helpful staff.
Those findings, from The Hartman Group’s “Outlook on the Millennial Consumer 2014” report, should tell mainstream retailers that they have an excellent chance of capturing millennials’ interest if they offer good prices and the right messaging.
It’s also important to curate a product selection that appeals to young adults on the move, which handily tend to be the same offerings that appeal to other shoppers. Millennials lead the way in favoring natural and organic ingredients, products that are locally grown and made and are free of GMOs and allergens. More broadly, they want fresh, prepared and convenient foods — like other consumers, but often moreso.
Millennials also tend to distrust marketing claims and value product information and recommendations from family as much as online sources. Although they want healthier and more progressive options, they struggle with the additional costs of such foods and question whether certain claims are trustworthy and whether certain products are worth the money.
One recent shift in millennial behavior is toward cooking, something that probably stems from their growing older. Although they eat out more than other generations, 60% of millennials say they enjoy cooking and 44% would love to cook more. Only 6% don’t like to cook.
Millennials rely on frozen meals more than older generations. They like to buy fresh ingredients as well, often on the same day they cook them, but remain less likely than their older cohorts to prepare meals entirely from scratch.
The key for retailers — and anyone catering to millennials these days — is to reconcile their need for convenience and affordability with their desire for fresh, healthy, enjoyable eating experiences.
As CEO, Laurie Demeritt provides strategic and operational leadership for The Hartman Group’s research and consulting teams. The Hartman Group is recognized for its ability to blend qualitative, quantitative and trends research to help clients develop marketing strategies. Its analysts understand the subtle complexities of how consumers live, shop and eat, and how to apply that understanding in ways that lead to purchase. For more information about The Hartman Group, visit www.hartman-group.com or contact Blaine Becker, senior director of marketing at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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