The Millennial generation has had a bad rap. Described as “privileged,” “entitled” or sometimes all three, Millennials are typically portrayed as the snotty teenagers of the world. I admit that when I first heard of my Generation Y status being included in this new found Millennial concept I was a bit indignant at having been lumped with that “riff raff” in the first place.
Perhaps I am a millennial after all.
Still, love us or hate us, we’re here. And we’re changing the food industry.
At a recent summit led by Fortune’s Most Powerful Women industry leaders examined the $18 billion dollar market loss shared by the top 25 U.S. food and beverage companies in the last five years. The cause? As the purchasing power of Millennials grows, so does the demand for fresh and healthy food. Indicating a clear preference for supporting local, artisanal and organic options, this generation is all about using a smartphone to become more knowledgeable about the food and products they are consuming. So much so, that the concept of having a dossier on your chicken doesn’t seem that far off:
The preference for high-quality dining options isn’t just for Millennials either—it’s also for their kids. Millennials demand healthier options beyond the stock mac n’ cheese or chicken fingers found on kids menus across the country. And some restaurants are stepping up to the plate. Take Ace Eat Serve here in Denver. On the kids menu you won’t find the traditional grilled cheese, but rather scaled-down portions of dishes like Wok Tossed Rice Noodles, Dim Sum and more. You may find that a simple update to your kid’s menu could be just what sets you apart from your competitors when you’re looking to appeal to this up and coming Millennial demographic.
But here’s the scary news for some companies: millennials have much less brand loyalty and are more willing to engage in different distribution models to find food. What does that mean for your business? It means that if you’re unwilling to meet their needs, they’ll go elsewhere—and fast. In today’s world Millenials have no problems purchasing food or restaurant supplies online (like on Tundra Restaurant Supply’s new mobile-friendly site) or shopping outside of your typical grocery store in order to get exactly what they want. Consumer food values are changing, and manufacturers have few options ahead of them if they wish to stay competitive in the market.
Finally, consider the messaging of your product with this new demographic. This electronic-word-of-mouth era makes social media, independent bloggers and YouTube leaders key in promoting and sharing your brand to millions of ears. And don’t underestimate the impact that Millennials have on their siblings (Gen Xers) or boomer parents—after all, if they can put the entire industry on its head, what about their families? Millennials are a highly influential demographic, and to write them off completely could be a risky move to your business.