It’s time to de-mystify the stereotype of the starving college student living on ramen noodles and peanut butter. If Millennials are eating ramen, it is sure to be spiced up and customized. Nutella is running rampant on college campuses as a substitute for peanut butter. Ethnic restaurants are favored over fast food.
Make It Tasty and Interesting
Millennials are the most ethnically diverse generation in US History, and their palettes reflect it. They want their food to taste as distinctive as they are. From sushi to Indian food, many grew up eating a variety of ethnic foods. Many Millennials happily describe themselves as ‘foodies,’ seeking out the freshest farm stand vegetables, artisan cheeses and microbrewery beers.
“We’re more comfortable with different things, tasty and interesting instead of just sustenance. We’re just as likely to have sweet potato chips as regular potato chips, Orangina drinks instead of just pop. Snapples are more interesting than just Sprites. The hipster beer is PBR or whatever it’s bad beer but they’ve tried to make it different, and that makes it cool, not just Bud Light or Miller/Bud/Keystone.” – Ariella, 21 years old
A March, 2012 Brand Amplitude study of post-college Millennials ages 25-34 years and35-49 year-olds shows they spend their food dollars differently. Millennials are more likely to shop at specialty stores like Trader Joes or Whole Foods and less likely to shop at traditional or discount grocery stores like Kroger and Aldi. They are also less likely to shop at club stores.
- Millennials prepare slightly more meals a week at home (6.2 on average).
- Millennials are much more likely to prepare special meals for entertaining friends, with 1 out of 5 doing so at least several times a month.
- Millennials are much more likely to focus on healthiness and presence of preservatives when evaluating food options.
Grocers and Food Manufacturers Feel the Effects
The impact of Millennials can be seen at the shelf. In the 52 weeks ending April 30, 2011, sales of specialty fruits such as mangos, kiwi and papaya grew 10.5% compared to the year prior, and sushi sales grew nearly 12%. The average number of deli cheese types increased by 57% between 2005 and 2010, with adults under the age of 34 in large part driving this expansion. Organic food sales are exploding, and the number of farmer’s markets in the U.S. grew 17% in 2011 to nearly 8,000.
To meet the demand, Campbell’s Soup launched 27 new soup flavors in its last fiscal year compared to just 3 the year before. Today it announced plans to launch 30 more ready-to-eat soup products in the coming year, including flavors like “Chipotle Chicken & Corn Chowder” and “Jammin’ Jerk Chicken”, both of which will be targeted towards young men. Campbell’s new “GoSoup” line features flavors like “Gold Lentil with Madras Curry” and “Gouda with Red Peppers” to appeal to sophisticated palettes.
Trader Joes and Whole Foods Cater to Millennial Tastes
Some specialty grocers like Trader Joe’s have embraced Millennials’ diverse and fickle preferences by promising healthy foods and giving them ideas for how to use them. All Trader Joe’s labeled products are guaranteed to contain no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, no MSG, no genetically modified ingredients or artificial transfats – all hot buttons for processed foods-averse Millennials. The icons (below) are used to reinforce the message of what’s NOT in the products and make it easier to find the products that are ‘right for you.’
Perhaps one of the strongest indications of Millennial’s passion for foods is the popularity of recipes on Pinterest, and Whole Foods has grabbed the opportunity to connect. Pinterest has exploded among Millennial women in particular due to its easy access to simple, tasty meals, and has all but replaced recipe books. Images are accessed via smart phone right when you need them, in the grocery store.Whole Foods maintains over 60 ‘boards’ with titles such as “Who Wants Dinner?” and “Eat Your Veggies.” Their subjects range well beyond food to kitchen design, gardening and other food-related lifestyle subjects. With the majority of Pinterest users under 30, this seems like a well-targeted effort on their part.
Key Takeaways for Food Marketers
1. Give them something ethnic or novel – Don’t underestimate the palettes of Millennials, their preferences go well beyond Honey Mustard and Lemon Garlic.
2. Organic and natural are the norm – Preservatives and processed foods are the enemy.
3. Be where they shop – Look for unusual distribution outlets like food trucks, special stores and farm markets.
4. Make easy for them to share – Pinterest is just one of the many ways Millennials explore and discover new foods and beverages. Find ways to connect them to those with common interests, as well as to your products.
5. Customize your offering – This generation has never had to take the ‘off the shelf solution.’ Give them ways to make their own unique flavor combinations.