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This is why millennials are stirring up the food industry

Millennials are food thrill seekers who want a purpose behind the product.

Mike Wilson

August 17, 2017

2 Min Read
shironosov/ThinkstockPhotos

Are you up for another story about millennials?

Before you click your way out of here, I’ll make you a promise: this will be different. We’re not bashing them. We’re finally understanding what they are all about, and discovering just how powerful they will be to the food and supermarket world now and going forward.

Still there? Great!

Millennials are people born between 1980 and 2000, so they are age 18 to 36. Their demographic is now bigger than Baby Boomers! And they don’t think about food the way their parents do.

Boomers and others like to go shopping. Millennials would rather buy online. Will the supermarket of the future become a daycare for the elderly? Maybe.

The new food consumer is engaged, skeptical and empowered. They actively seek information and have the tools to get that information. Here’s the catch: they are looking for both product and purpose. They trust a friends’ recommendation more than advertising.

They reject messages from the big ag and food companies. Over 40% of millennials don’t trust big food brands. “Big brands have lost shares over the last 7 years,” says Mary Shelman, former director of the Harvard Business School’s agribusiness program. “The top 25 food companies – the General Mills, the Nestles – have lost $18 billion in market value from 2005 to 2015.”

Millennials want a food experience. They are food thrill seekers. Remember when lunch was just something you did to get through the day? Millennials want food to be an adventure. They want to eat different cultures – Thai food one night, Sushi the next, maybe Mexican or Italian later in the week.

They have more awareness of the ties between food and health. To them, food is health. They’re interested in exercise, they read labels, and they are looking for not just calorie counts, but ingredients. They’re looking for fresh and not processed, and many want organics. They want foods that are local, natural.

For millennials, food is a cause, or identity. Did you know 70% of millennials take pictures of their food? They post pictures of their food on social media. Over one-third purchase specific brands because of the cause that that product or brand represents, and are willing to pay more for it. Yet, 70% have some student loan debt and earn 20% less than baby boomers at that same stage of life. So they do want it cheap.

In my next blog I’ll tell you what some food companies are doing to position themselves to capture the hearts of millennials. Hint: It’s an uphill climb.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.

About the Author(s)

Mike Wilson

Senior Executive Editor, Farm Progress

Mike Wilson is the senior executive editor for Farm Progress. He grew up on a grain and livestock farm in Ogle County, Ill., and earned a bachelor's degree in agricultural journalism from the University of Illinois. He was twice named Writer of the Year by the American Agricultural Editors’ Association and is a past president of the organization. He is also past president of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists, a global association of communicators specializing in agriculture. He has covered agriculture in 35 countries.

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