How Millennials are Shaping the Food Industry – And Eating More Seafood
Who are millennials, what do they want when it comes to food and why should you care?
Millennials are the people to thank for the rise in customizable fast-casual eats like Chipotle and the meal kit industry comprised of options like Hello Fresh, as well as online grocery shopping and food trucks. To be clear, they’re the generation born between the early 1980s to about 1996. And, the 80 million U.S. millennials represent about $600 billion worth of spending power. Of that spending power, they each tend to spend about $2,242 at the grocery store and $1,672 dining out every year.
So, what is it that they’re spending their money on when they grocery shop or dine out? Millennials view food differently than previous generations, and these views are shaping their preferences. Previous generations looked at food as something to get them through the day and they looked at fat as the enemy as they read food labels to inspect calorie counts. Now, millennials look at food as part of their lifestyle, with effects on their health, their adventures, and their identities, and they no longer look at fat as the enemy but rather embrace it and prefer foods that are low in carbs and read food labels not for calorie counts but to decipher the health qualities of the foods at their fingertips, both physically and digitally.
These various ways millennials view food have resulted in millennials wanting:
- More snacks: Millennials love to snack as some of them graze instead of eating big meals a few times a day. So, they want more portable snack foods that are resealable and easy-to-open.
- More convenience: Just as millennials’ snacking habits require them to have portable food options, their desire for convenience also requests portability as millennials are constantly on the go. This desire for convenience is a major factor as millennials make their food choices with 55% citing convenience as the driver. But, this doesn’t mean that millennials prioritize convenience over the planet and animals. In fact, millennials have ditched the convenience of plastic straws and single-use plastic such as plastic bags, cups and utensils in favor of protecting the planet.
- More sustainable options: Just as millennials have chosen to protect the planet over choosing a convenient product such as plastic straws, millennials are wanting more sustainable options. Sustainability is a top priority for millennials, especially when it comes to making food choices, which is why they want to know where the food was grown, its carbon footprint, and if livestock were treated humanely. Additionally, millennials are “paying attention to how much energy, water and effort it takes to grow, manufacture and transport food, including the packaging process.” Learn more about what “sustainable” really means for you and how you as a food manufacturer can evolve the packaging of your food products to be more sustainable to appeal to millennials.
- Less meat: Because of millennials’ sustainability concerns, they’re eating less meat since animal products contribute to pollution as the animal waste releases more greenhouse gases. Instead, many millennials are shifting towards plant-based diets with 40% embracing “largely plant-based diets, even if they are not vegetarian or vegan.”
- More seafood: Between 2017 and 2018, millennials increased their seafood consumption by 30% with 40% preferring wild seafood over farmed due to environmental concerns, as previously mentioned. During that same time, 70% have made their diets healthier, which is correlated to the consumer perception that seafood is more healthful than beef, pork and poultry items. Additionally, consumers view seafood as a high-quality protein, which has contributed to the rise in seafood consumption, lead by women between the ages of 25 and 34.
- Healthier foods: Seafood isn’t the only food product millennials are looking to for healthier options, they’re also looking for products that are organic and natural. In fact, 52% of people who eat organic products are millennials and additionally, 60% of millennials want foods free of modified ingredients, according to the Organic Trade Association. Interestingly, baby food is the most important category for organic food, followed by fruits and vegetables. Millennials are searching for these organic and natural food options because they view these organic food choices as “integral to their green lifestyle.” In addition to organic and natural, many millennials are following special diets such as keto, vegan, Whole 30 or plant-based, citing reasons for following these special diets such as healthier for their bodies, weight loss, concerns about health, and more.
- Locally-sourced foods: In addition to healthier options, millennials are preferring locally sourced options and may even consider them to be simultaneously healthier. As a result of this shift, many restaurant menus are actually listing the farm where your lettuce was grown. And it’s not just at restaurants, 68% of millennials would rather buy locally sourced ingredients and are valuing locally produced foods, especially fresh packaged salads, because they’re fresher and don’t have to travel as far to get into stores.
- Ethical & humane businesses & companies with a cause: Outside of the food itself, millennials care about the ethics, humanity, and philanthropy of a company when choosing where they get their food from. Millennials are seeking out ethical businesses because they want to support them and they’re demanding companies have humane business practices in how they treat their employees and the products they sell. Additionally, millennials seek out brands to support that have a purpose that aligns with their own beliefs and this is such a driving factor in the food products they buy that 37% of millennials purchase products because of the cause a brand represents.
And, because of these millennial preferences, we can now get meals pre-prepped and delivered to our doorsteps, we can go grocery shopping without stepping foot into a grocery store, we can get locally produced and sustainable foods at fast-casual restaurants and decline the consumption of food from McDonald’s – and that’s why you should care: millennials are shaping the food industry. And, most millennials are willing to pay more for the food options that align with their preferences and they currently have the greatest buying power in the market.
What does it mean for you as a food manufacturer?
In order for millennials to get the healthier, more sustainable, locally-sourced foods they want, they need transparency from the food manufacturers regarding how their food is made, the ingredients, the sources, etc. In order to give them this transparency and capitalize on these trends you need to track this data so that you can report on it and include the pertinent information on your labels to appeal to millennials. In addition to this information, consider including a cause you support on your labels to show that you care about more than the bottom line. Whatever you choose to put on your label, be very intentional about being authentic as millennials may want the types of products you’re advertising, but they won’t take your word for it – they’ll do the research to discover unsubstantiated claims so the best choice is to authentically move towards offering more sustainable, locally-sourced, healthier products and be transparent about it.
In addition to transparency, agility is becoming increasingly important for food manufacturers in order to respond to these millennial-driven market trends – and technology can help. Specifically, having the right technology in place will be most helpful when it comes to product lifecycle management, quality control and connected supply chain networks as these will help you respond to market trends quickly and efficiently while maintaining freshness, flavor, appearance, and logistics.
Book a demo today to see how NorthScope can help you with these new challenges!
What’s next for food manufacturers to consider?
Capitalizing on market trends doesn’t end with millennials – they may be the generation with the current buying power but following in their footsteps is Gen Z. As a generation entering into adulthood, Gen Z accounts for between $29 billion and $143 billion in direct spending and makes up 26% of the U.S. population.
Gen Z has grown up prioritizing flavor and function over the brand when it comes to making food choices and they’ve also grown up with more education around the benefits of fresh food as opposed to processed foods, putting a greater emphasis on the quality of clean, fresh, and nutritionally beneficial food. As such, the segment of Gen Z who will reach their mid to late 20s in the next five years is projected to grow the holistic and healthy snack category by 5% by 2023 with fresh fruit, refrigerated yogurt, and nuts and seeds as the fastest growing sub-categories within the healthy snack category.
Speaking of snacks, while millennials love to snack, Gen Z is even more likely to snack between meals and when they do prepare meals, they’re more likely to prepare simpler ones than previous generations. Because of this desire for simpler meals, Gen Zers are 29% more likely to consume microwavable dinners, 26% more likely to eat frozen breakfast entrees or sandwiches, 23% more likely to eat frozen dinners and 10% more likely to eat dry packaged dinners, dinner mixes and kits. But, while this presents an opportunity for frozen prepared meals and canned and packaged prepared food, it’s important to note that Gen Z still wants healthy items. In fact, Gen Zers want even more organic and natural foods without additives than millennials and they’re more likely to be vegetarians.
Overall, you can expect that Gen Z will emphasize safety even more, demand organic products more, and be more interested in not just what a product is and what it offers but how it was made and who it was made by as the generation’s concerns with climate change and clean air will entice them to scrutinize companies’ sustainability practices even more.