Bonding with Millennials

December 10, 2012

Supermarkets have a great chance to win over Millennials—by offering careers and the innovative foods they seek.

Millennials set the performance bar high for food retailers, food brands and restaurants.

Beyond their sheer numbers (They’ll be at 78 million in the United States versus 56 million Boomers by 2030, projects the United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs), Millennials are passionate about foods, ethnically diverse, deal seeking and technology-savvy.  Already 40% of this group uses a smartphone or tablet to research products when they shop, notes a special Supermarket News section.

Their food preferences and buying behaviors will affect more than themselves in the years ahead, since many will form families and reach their peak spending periods. Millennials already affect household food purchases by parents, siblings and grandparents because one-quarter of them have boomeranged home after college—the result of under-employment or unemployment in the slow economy.

As a group, their current food spending isn’t near potential—but they do affect much of what’s bought today, and once they grow financially they’ll become the key lifetime customers of food brands and supermarkets. This unique position has food manufacturers such as Campbell Soup and PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay studying their food choices and launching new flavors in hip packaging to appeal to Millennials. An Ad Age account credits Millennial research for the new Campbell’s GO line of microwavable soups in pouches, with flavors such as creamy red pepper with smoked gouda, and for the introduction of Dorito’s Jacked, a thicker chip in flavors such as enchilada supreme. has identified the continued food passions of Millennials as a Top Ten Food Trend for 2013, “led by their desire to understand food heritage, where foods come from, food preparation and how food is served—but with a twist. Over 86% of Millennials seek the lowest everyday prices for foods. Almost one-third of them have difficulty affording their weekly groceries, compared with 22% of the general population."

To appeal to Millennials, it will take innovations in food products, packaging and meal preparation, as well as tech-driven ways to help them save, such as QR codes and e-coupons. F3 expects the most impactful product development to have an ethnic flair—because Millennials are the most ethnically diverse generation in U.S. history:  approximately 19% are Latino, 13% are black, 4% are Asian, 1 in 5 has an immigrant parent, and 1 in 10 has a parent who isn’t an American citizen.

One of the best ways supermarkets can win over Millennials is not by selling them foods, but by offering them careers. Why not? The industry matches their food passion, and by bringing in these well-educated, fresh thinkers, supermarkets can be certain of knowing precisely what will appeal to this generation on the rise.

It may not be easy to match Millennial work styles with the incessant demands of supermarkets, but college graduates who’d rather be independent of mom and dad may be more flexible than expected. If both sides bend, both benefit—and the opportunity to capture young, moldable talent is as a great for supermarkets as it has been in recent memory.