Millennials are now waking up to new realities and, with more people in that generation of consumers becoming parents, they are now engaging in more adult-centric activities, said The Hartman Group President and CEO Laurie Demerritt in a recent webinar.
When men and women from this generation leave their parents’ households, they are experimenting with a lot of new foods and brands.
“Millennials are just more open to choice and change than any other generation,” Demerritt said. “This rebellion is relatively transitory – most strike a balance between the food habits of their parents and their own preferences and needs.”
However, millennials retain some of their adventurous eating habits, even when children become part of the household.
“It really says something about your food values when you tell other people what your kids are eating,” Demerritt said.
Millennials are the most optimistic generation, but their optimism lessens as they look beyond their immediate communities. And millennial parents are more optimistic than those without children that the quality of life will get better in all areas.
“Eating good food” is at the heart of wellness, the culture of which has shifted from being reactive to being proactive. Good food is not necessarily nutritional food – it can be things that are relatively indulgent – but they are foods that are seen by consumers as “more real.” Millennials are taking a big-picture approach as they look at health.
Other platforms of wellness include staying connected, being active and resting.
“It used to be that consumers would brag about how little sleep they needed,” Demerritt said. “Now it’s becoming more of a badge of honor that they get a good night’s sleep.”
Food and beverage
Millennials are now looking at regionally specific cuisines, and not simply “Mexican” or “Indian.” They also appreciate the opportunity for customization of their meals.
This generation makes a lot of last-minute decisions about what they eat because planning creates stress.
“This is an element of cultural change – that planning isn’t fun,” Demerritt said.
Top needs of millennials include:
- Not needing time or energy to think about cooking preparing something
- Having foods with better flavor than their ordinary counterparts
- Having foods or beverages that were made with simple, real ingredients
“Fewer Millennials are driven by their moods as they become more conscious of ingredient labels and additives,” Demerrit said.
Forty-four percent of millennials would love to cook more, though they can consider cooking to be simply mixing a few ingredients together. The sweet spot for meal prep time is 20 to 30 minutes for millennials. They tend to be more spontaneous and enjoy looking at images to try to figure out how they can eat it – whether that means making it or buying it already prepared.
“Millennials are kind of working backwards from what they want to eat to how they’re going to get it,” Demerritt said. “They are thinking about healthier convenience. And food trucks have changed the landscape a lot.”
Millennials are more likely than other cohorts to indicate their concerns about the sustainability of the companies from which they buy. Millennials with children are even more likely to state they’re thinking about these concerns – social justice, animal welfare, employee treatment and other issues.
However, millennials are oversaturated with one-word health claims like “natural” and “organic” on products. Is there a variation on “natural” that does resonate with consumers?
“Give them the cues that get them to think ‘natural,’ ” said Demerritt. “I think it’s much more bang for your buck if you can give them the cues. Make sure there’s nothing on the ingredient label they can’t pronounce. Have a short ingredient list, or a transparent package. On the front of the package, think about having a picture of the raw ingredients. Leverage all the cues to get them to think about ‘natural’ rather than using that word as a specific call-out.”
Shopping and communication
Millennials are looking for inspiration online. Particularly for the produce industry, it’s important to note that they’re going to do last-minute planning, then shop and eat immediately.
In a study conducted by The Hartman Group, millennials had shopped at an average of 9 retailers in the past 90 days, compared to 7.1 for Gen X and 6.3 for Boomers. A lack of planning results in more trips, according to Demerritt.
Consumers are looking to connect with brands, and they want something back. Millennials are looking for good deals, and they’re willing to share some of their personal information for loyalty programs, games, exclusive rights and other benefits.
The best way for companies to communicate with consumers is email. While older cohorts are more likely to want traditional direct mail, millennials are more likely to connect with companies via Facebook. Email is the No. 1 communication tool for all groups.
And how can we encourage millennials to use more fresh produce in their daily lives?
“We know they’re becoming more proactive about health,” Demerritt said. “And we know now that snacking is half of all eating occasions taking place for millennials. So push ideas around produce as a snacking product as well. And we don’t necessarily see more people becoming vegetarians, but they’re putting meat on the side of their plate rather than at the center of the plate.”
And with global flavors, there is an opportunity to promote new varietals and to showcase all the interesting fruits and vegetables that are coming from other places.
“In many cases, it seems healthier,” Demerritt said. “There is an inherent halo of health and of interest around that.”