A large and unique generation, millennials have captivated the minds of marketers in all industries. According to Forbes, members of this generation tend to be more optimistic and independent when it comes to their world views. They also tend to be less traditional than the generations that came before them when it comes to experiencing various life stages. These characteristics pose distinctive challenges to marketers in the food service industry, who must come up with new and interesting strategies to keep their brands at the top of millennials' minds.
Understanding the Challenge
Because of this generation’s unique buying habits and worldview, marketing strategies brands have relied on in the past are not always as effective among members of this generation.
A Boomer might, for example, plan ahead and make careful, practical decisions that support their stage in life. Thus, for this generation, marketers often relied on expected life events that occur around predictable ages, such as buying a home, beginning a career or starting a family. Unlike members of the Baby Boom generation, however, Millennials' purchasing habits are not likely to be driven by life stages or even by practicality— at least when it comes to food.
Millennials are, for the most part, a generation of foodies. They’ll pay top dollar for artisan or other unique, small-batch foods and are more likely to seek out ways to personalize meals. They’re also more likely to make purchases based on health benefits and environmental concerns.
According to NJ Biz, when dining out, health-conscious Millennials are more likely to spend their money in locations which emphasize customization and freshness, such as Chipotle. This has caused significant financial distress for fast food giants that once dominated the quick-serve scene.
Millennials unique purchasing habits have also affected supermarkets and grocery stores. Unlike other grocer shoppers who carefully plan their shopping trips and make comprehensive grocery lists to guide their purchases, Millennials are, Consumerist reports, more likely to be spontaneous in their shopping. In fact, one quarter of the meals purchased by members of this generation will be eaten on the same day they are bought. Furthermore, unlike members of older generations, millennials making food choices are more likely to focus on the perceived health value of a food than simply on price.
Marketing to Millennials
Bands that want to increase their market share with Millennial grocery shoppers, must embrace the new ideas and purchasing habits exhibited by the demographic. Instead of marketing based on life stages, practicality or even affordability, brands must focus on the characteristics that matter most to Millennials: ethics, health and customization.
Millennials are interested in foods that are made with local, organic ingredients. They also tend to opt for foods that are minimally processed and do not contain long lists of unrecognizable ingredients. In addition, Millennials are interested in products that allow them to customize their meals to meet their individual needs. An RTE meal, for example, that allows the home cook to add their own finishing touches while the food is being reheated on the stove.
When creating marketing campaigns, however, simply offering foods that appeal to Millennials is not enough. In order to remain top-of-mind and maximize profitability, brands must also design marketing efforts that showcase their products in a way that resonates with this generation.
For example, instead of advertisements that focus on the price of a given food, brands should focus on that food's health benefits or the fact that it contains local ingredients. Likewise, because Millennials are more likely to make choices in the store rather than at home, brands should focus a significant amount of advertising revenue on in-store marketing strategies to catch these impulse shoppers—despite the demographics digital tendencies.