The landscape of the food industry is changing. From ready-to-eat meals to dining rooms in grocery stores to groceries arriving at your doorstep—consumers are wanting and demanding innovation in the food industry.
One large group is behind these changes, says Mary Shelman, a food and agribusiness thought leader and the former director of Harvard Business School’s Agribusiness Program. Yes, it’s those darn millennials.
“Millennials today are the largest demographic segment in the U.S.,” Shelman says. “Born between 1980 and 2000, millennials today are having families, enjoying increasing incomes and have different expectations of what they want in their food.”
Today’s food consumer is engaged and empowered.
Shelman says millennials view food differently than other generations. She’s seen three distinct trends.
- Food is health. Millennials are more aware of health qualities of food and read labels—not just the calorie count. They look to see if products are processed, organic, etc.
- Food is adventure. For the older generations, Shelman says, food got you through the day. Now food thrill seekers could enjoy a different type of cuisine every night, without traveling far from home.
- Food is identity. Millennials want to support brands with a purpose that aligns with their beliefs. “Millennials don’t trust big brands,” Shelman says. “But they are quite brand loyal when they find smaller brands they believe in, and 37% of millennials purchase specific products because of the cause a brand represents.”
Additionally, this demographic is a large consumer of social media and channels like the Food Network. In fact, 70% of millennials take pictures of their food, Shelman points out.
As these trends continue, expect to see changes in y our local supermarket, Shelman says. Supermarkets of the future will not be super in size. Instead, they will embrace technology and data, tell product stories and create experiences.
Want to learn more? Our friends over at our sister publication, The Packer, have a video series about millennial consumption trends, specifically around produce.
Ashley Nickle, editor of Produce Retailer, and Amelia Freidline, copy editor and designer for The Packer, recently visited a Kansas City-area grocery store to get a sampling of what kind of product claims produce companies are using on their packaging.