Marketing Food & Health to Millennials
By Phil Lempert, RDBA, CEO
Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996 and are now aged 26 to 41. In numbers, they are a close second to the baby boomers – with approximately 72 million millennials here in America. A powerful food consumer. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in February of this year, millennial households are buying more unprocessed foods, like fruits and vegetables, rather than processed foods such as pasta and chips. The report goes on to say that this generation is turning towards food that is healthy, fresh and organic. They tend to avoid those foods that are high in sodium, sugar or fat and are more likely to attempt gluten-free or low carb diets. So, it should be easy to promote healthy eating to this generation, right?
It should be, but not always. Millenials (and Gen Z) are self-proclaimed foodies who have discovered many foods on Instagram and other social channels. They tend to be more fickle in their food choices; and because of the ease of ordering take out and the diverse menu options tend to eat out more often. In fact, pre-pandemic the average millennial ate out five times a week. Flavor and food adventures are important to them. According to Mintel, almost half of adult consumers under 45 seek condiments with restaurant-centric flavors, reinforcing the notion that flavor exploration can stimulate both consumers and brands in the category. A great example is the just introduced Heinz 57 collection of “elevated” sauces and spreads that include infused honeys, hot chili and black truffle, and Crunch Sauces that the company says are premium oil-based ingredients that provide texture in chili pepper crunch, roasted garlic crunch, and mandarin orange miso crunch flavors.
Then the formula is simple. Millenials = health + flavor + palate adventure.
But there’s more.
SNIPPResearch is a research platform that collects and analyzes data across the point of purchase, and The Food Institute reports that they predict that 80% of Millennials will be parents within the next 15 years. Their kids are part of Generation Alpha – and the question is how and if the millennials’ food choices will transfer to the next generation. And how will food brands and supermarkets effectively market to them.
SNIPPResearch found that to win over millennial parents, food companies must display a social conscience. According to Incrementors Inbound Marketing, 37% of millennials favor a brand strictly due to the causes it supports. “Millennials buy goods for a variety of reasons, including quality and flavor,” said Shiv Gupta, Incrementors Inbound Marketing’s CEO. “Many people in this generation are drawn to brands that support social concerns.” But in this age of Woke there is a fine line that could be dangerous to cross. UK’s The Pull Agency just surveyed over 2,000 consumers on their thoughts about brands supporting “progressive” causes. They found that 58% of those surveyed said that they believed that brands who get involved with social causes are actually insincere – woke-washing or green-washing. Millennials are adept at finding out the phonies, and then calling them out on social media and boycotting their brands. Bottom line: if you are going to say it – you had better mean it!
Millennial consumers also demand that companies be available online. Millennials tend to be influenced by online reviews, as well as comments seen on social media. Because of that, food companies should actively engage parents via digital means to help form positive impressions of their brands. Additionally, their websites should be as transparent as possible. “Millennials are the Google generation; they want to be able to find answers to their questions with a few clicks,” said Kristen Nauss, a Tennessee-based registered dietitian and founder of the Buying School Food consultancy. “Food companies need a website with updated product information to remain competitive.”
Yes, millenials are a complicated and demanding generation to market to, but we can’t ignore 72 million mouths to feed; we just have to get it right.