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As consumer interest in brand transparency continues to grow, new research from Mintel reveals that more than two in five U.S. Millennials (43 percent) agree they do not trust large food manufacturers compared to just 18 percent of non-Millennials. Similarly, nearly three quarters (74 percent) of Millennials wish that food companies were more transparent about how they manufacture their products (versus 69 percent of non-Millennials).
In line with these attitudes, Millennials, defined by Mintel as adults age 21–38, 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), who are defined as adults age 18–20 and 39 and older. Mintel research also shows that 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. Nearly three in five Millennials (57 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,” says 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 (versus 20 percent of non-Millennials). 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 (versus 20 percent of non-Millennials). Two in five (40 percent) Millennials place importance on foods that are convenient to eat, while another 35 percent place importance on purchasing food that is fun to eat.
Millennials also consider themselves to be foodies (62 percent) and are likely to value premium ingredients and higher quality food offerings. Their willingness to splurge for locally produced foods with high-quality ingredients is apparent, with half of Millennials (50 percent) finding it important to make food purchases that fit within their budget compared to 61 percent of non-Millennials. This draw to high-quality ingredients further indicates why more than half of Millennials find traditional grocery stores less appealing than specialty stores.
“Millennials’ foodie mentality is likely increasing their interest in specialty stores, as traditional stores may not offer a strong selection of high quality foods that are locally produced or are from companies they perceive as trustworthy. As they expand their budget for food purchases, specialty stores present an outlet for Millennials to find the fresh, functional foods they desire,” Topper says.
Overall, 31 percent of consumers made a grocery purchase online in 2015, up from 19 percent in 2014. Nearly two in five Millennials go above and beyond, as 39 percent report primarily buying their groceries online. As consumers become more “connected” when shopping, Millennials are more likely to turn to technology for in-store grocery shopping as well, as 60 percent create shopping lists on their phone. Additionally, 55 percent of Millennials look up food products while in store, compared to only 12 percent of non-Millennials.
“While online grocery shopping has yet to be widely adopted, it is gaining momentum among Millennial shoppers, America’s largest demographic. Assisted by their familiarity with technology and the disinterest many Millennial consumers express with traditional grocery stores, our research indicates there is future value in the online grocery channel. Retailers and manufacturers who establish a genuine and authentic relationship, and offer online experiences that improve convenience and product variety, will be in prime position to attract Millennial shoppers moving forward,” Topper says.