Millennial consumers— those born between roughly 1980 and 1997— are expected to be contributing an average of $1.4 trillion dollars annually to US GDP, according to a new study by Accenture. That potential future purchasing power has most marketers' keen attention. Writing for Forbes, contributor Patrick Spenner examined the rush to meet Millennial consumers' demands in the marketplace today.
"What is it about this generation that has everyone so captivated? It’s their unique sense of self (for lack of a better word), their surprisingly optimistic outlook on life (despite the harsh economic realities they face), and their less than traditional approach to life stages," Spenner proffered.
Millennials are a new breed of American consumer.
But many companies (and especially food and consumer good producers) have difficulty figuring out just how to reach what some believe to be an enigmatic age cohort.
Already notable for their strong rejection of what had, for the past 50 years or so, been the standard business model of the American food industry— in which the convenience of quick-heat products and fast food was valued over nutritional awareness or ethical sourcing— Millennials are reshaping the market and causing many food marketing executives at traditional powerhouse corporations to lose sleep.
"Millennials are misunderstood, in large part, because they aren’t approaching adulthood the same way that previous generations have," Spenner stated. "The milestones of adulthood (getting a job, buying a home, getting married, having kids) just aren’t as feasible for many Millennials given the ramifications of the recession. But their less-than-rosy financial situation is only part of the equation."
"Millennials grew up in an expanding world of choice and options for just about everything they ever needed or wanted. Because of this, they view life very differently. They don’t see just see one path available to them— they see limitless possibilities to make their life their own."
Millennials' desires are simple: variety, value and responsible production.
Millennials are perhaps the most pragmatic American generation since the cohort born in and around 1920-1930. Although young adults today do not exactly mimic the habits of those who lived through the Great Depression, they are deeply concerned (as a result of their experience with the Great Recession and a Boomer-clogged job market) with making smart purchases.
Although many young adults will shell out for dinners at high-end restaurants, or are willing to spend more to purchase organic over processed foods, they will also trade off for cheaper staples when feasible. That doesn't mean that they are always willing to sacrifice quality in favor of price. It is merely an acknowledgement that where they perceive high value, they will purchase— although those purchases are tempered by financial reality at a given moment.
Millennials perceive quality in terms of durability and value-added, but they also consider what were heretofore peripheral factors for most consumers (health and wellness and corporate ethics). And because they are constantly seeking a variety of life experiences, they love anything new and exciting.
To that end, our definition of (and approach to) "value" probably needs to change. Whereas previous generations adhered to a fairly strict definition of value consisting of a quality-to-price ratio, the Millennial-derived value equation may be better represented as:
How to catch Millennials' eyes in the grocery or store aisle.
Innovative food packaging designs that conceptualize and visually render the value equation would do well with Millennial consumers. A successful package should:
- Be made with all recycled goods and in turn be recyclable (Millennials hate waste).
- Call attention to healthy nutritional attributes.
- Feature a coherent ingredient list (the fewer "chemical" ingredients in your product, the better).
- Have non-deceptive nutritional information (don't list calories, fat, sugar and sodium content per serving if it's a small package; list them per package itself).
- Incorporate a bright, open and attractive design, in order to stand out on the shelf.
- Have reasonable portion sizes: either enough for one person to eat in one sitting, or enough for a family of four to eat in one sitting. Nothing below, above, or in-between. Millennials tend not to plan their weekly meals ahead — they often shop for a meal's ingredients same-day, so they are unlikely to store leftovers.