Most businesses have become very aware of the potential buying power that the millennial generation holds. This holds true for those of us in the food industry, too. But what’s hype and what’s real?

1 – Who Are Millennials?

Millennials were born between 1980 (ish) and 2000 (ish), and the subset of this group that most consumer spending researchers are interested in are the offspring of high-earning baby boomers. These young adults are often the result of helicopter parenting and have a taste for high-quality, international foods.

While many millennials have more sophisticated palates than their predecessors at their age, they don’t yet have much income to buy the foods they really want to eat. So, the question is…does your food business vie for the $600 billion millennials spend every year or plan for the future when they replace their higher-earning elders in the workforce, and can afford to buy more of your food?

2 – Do Millennials Care About Food?

The surveys say, yes. Millennials care about food a great deal. Here are the stats:

  • “50 percent of millennials refer to themselves as ‘foodies,’ but 60 percent of those self-identified foodies still visit fast-food restaurants at least once a week (compared with 48 percent for older adults).” Source: Washington Post
  • An average of 1.77 sit down meals per day.  Source: Statista 
  • “It’s estimated [millennials will] be spending $200 billion annually by 2017 and $10 trillion over their lifetimes as consumers, in the U.S. Alone.” Source: Forbes
  • “Some FMCG [fast moving consumer goods] brands are already claiming 20-50% of sales from online purchases. Millennials aren’t just affecting online purchases; their penchant for using mobile devices while shopping has forced grocers to develop digital strategies for in-store shopping as well as for online shopping.” Source: Enterra Solutions

3 – What Do Millennials Want in Food?

There is a tremendous amount of research on millennials. This isn’t a debate about whether or not these people are spoiled or unjustly criticized. This is merely a look at what they expect from your food business.

Millennials are community-minded. They are known to have strong networks with friends, not institutions.

Think: funky architecture, large community tables, small plates, an abundance of online reviews. Millennials want a food experience…and they often want to share it with friends. If they don’t purchase in groups, you can bet they purchase as a result of recommendations. Thanks to Yelp, Urban Spoon, and all of social media this is very possible.

Millennials grew up on tech.

Many millennials don’t know a life without a computer. As a result, they expect technology to work right and work fast. Make sure your website loads fast and reads well on a phone. Make sure your mobile app works impeccably. Make sure your social media profiles are updated often.

Eve Turow, author of A Taste of Generation Yum, says that all this technology has created sensory deprivation for us. As a result, we hunger to please all our senses when we can. We want Instagram-worthy photos of our food that boasts color, texture, and alludes to smell and flavor, too.

Millennials are well traveled and internationally inspired when it comes to food.

Spring break trips to Cancun, Semesters at Sea, and family vacations to Paris are not uncommon. Millennials know the difference between a green and a red curry and expect you to, also. Along with that authenticity, they want to see your mash-ups. There’s an expectation that even a standard American Grill menu will pay homage to a few of our overseas friends.

Millennials live in a selfie culture.

Many young adults are inspired to share pictures on social media…daily. Whether it’s a shoe selfie, a photo of their dog on their latest mountain hike, or a food photo, all of these photos create social currency in their minds.

Millenials like to “be in the know.”

We don’t believe this is exclusive to millennials. We have a theory that all of us like to discover amazing brands and tell the world about it. It’s the “I tasted it first” phenomenon. With food, there’s all sorts of ways to be in the know.

“Do you know this chef?” “Have you tried this dish?” Ever made this meal?”

Millennials want quality.

At the start of this article, we mentioned that millennials are the result of parents who fed their kids well. Expectations are high. For your food biz to be successful with millennials, choose high-quality ingredients and make that part of your brand story. as Eve Turow said, “We have this taste for arugula and prosciutto, even though we’re making $30,000 a year and five years out of college.”

Image source: Mike Vidikan on Flickr

Sara Lancaster

About Sara Lancaster

Sara is The Condiment Marketing Co.’s founder and creative director. She oversees client relationships, strategic marketing plans, as well as a bit of copywriting and social media management.