Millennials number 72 million and their views on food choices have been a driving factor in the functional foods market for the past few years. This group views its food as healthier, more expensive, more natural/organic, less processed, better tasting and fresh. What’s more, Millennials are the most likely generation to believe functional foods and beverages can be used in place of some medicines to relieve tiredness and lack of energy, retain mental sharpness with aging, and improve stress and eye health.
And Millennials are demanding more in terms of brand transparency. According to a new report from Mintel, 43 percent of Millennials agree they do not trust large food manufacturers compared to just 18 percent of non-Millennials. Similarly, 74 percent of Millennials wish food companies were more transparent about how they manufacture their products (versus 69 percent of non-Millennials).
In line with these attitudes, Millennials are more likely to agree that the retailer (38 percent) and brand (37 percent) are important food purchase factors than non-Millennials (27 percent and 25 percent respectively). The report also found 59 percent of Millennials will stop buying a certain brand’s products if they believe the brand is unethical, while 58 percent of Millennials agree that where you buy your groceries reflects your personal values compared to 28 percent of non-Millennials.
As they pursue unique foods from retailers and brands they perceive as trustworthy, Millennials are blending “authentic" with “ethical." Millennials (52 percent) are twice as likely as non-Millennials (25 percent) to agree that traditional grocery stores are not as appealing as specialty stores. Fifty-seven percent say they only shop the fresh sections of grocery stores (e.g. produce, meat and deli) compared to just 30 percent of non-Millennials. This is in line with Millennials’ increased likelihood to avoid buying processed foods (58 percent versus 51 percent of non-Millennials). Millennials (67 percent) are also more open to trying foods made for specific diets (e.g. vegan, paleo, gluten free) than non-Millennials (40 percent) and are more likely to agree that they are more focused on health than other generations (69 percent versus 55 percent of non-Millennials).
“Millennials are different than generations prior and are taking a proactive approach with their health. This impacts their food shopping behaviors, product preferences and the brands they support," said Amanda Topper, Food Analyst at Mintel. “With growing distrust and a greater desire for transparency from food manufacturers, Millennials want brands to form a genuine, authentic connection with them and brands should recognize the impact Millennials have on their businesses."
While Mintel research shows that 94 percent of Americans snack daily, Millennials are taking it a step further with 52 percent preferring to snack instead of eat regular meals. When purchasing foods at a grocery store, 46 percent of Millennials look to buy foods that will keep them full compared to just 32 percent of non-Millennials, and 37 percent place importance on buying foods that will energize them compared to 20 percent of non-Millennials). Forty percent of Millennials place importance on foods that are convenient to eat, while another 35 percent place importance on purchasing food that is fun to eat.
Interestingly, 62 percent of Millennials consider themselves to be foodies and are likely to value premium ingredients and higher-quality food offerings. But Millennials also are influencing the private-label sector. Earlier this year, a Mintel report found brand trust, improved quality and product innovation among the top reasons consumers are buying private-label food and beverages. They have generally positive perceptions of these products, and some view them as even more innovative than name brands. In fact, 37 percent of U.S. shoppers prefer store-brand products over brand-name products, while 42 percent of Millennials said private-label food products are more innovative than name-brand products.
What’s more, 63 percent of U.S. shoppers agree private-label products are higher quality than they used to be, including close to 70 percent of Millennials. Many U.S. shoppers agree store-brand products stack up against their name-brand counterparts both in flavor, packaging and variety of product offering, further blurring the line between the brand types.