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Industry Viewpoint: The world of the millennial shopper

As a millennial working in the produce industry, I’m in tune with both the wants and needs of young shoppers and the challenges produce companies and retailers face in finding unique and meaningful ways to reach my generation.meile

By 2019, millennials will be the nation’s largest population segment according to projections from the United States Census Bureau. This makes their shopping habits extremely important to produce companies and retailers as this generation moves through different life stages — from post-college to starting a family.

This age group — ranging from 22 to 37 — is culturally diverse, highly educated, tech-savvy and focused on convenience and healthy eating. Having been introduced to digital media at a young age, the millennial shopper typically heads to the grocery store with a shopping plan based on deals and coupons from mobile apps, mobile shopping lists and online recipes. They are less dependent on circulars than previous generations and more likely to download mobile apps like Cartwheel.

Millennials are becoming more comfortable with shopping through online-only retailers due to busy schedules and a desire for convenience. With the growing popularity of online grocery shopping and meal kit delivery services, retailers and produce brands must tap into how and where millennials shop. They also need to figure out what motivates millennial purchasing habits as they age and their grocery spend increases due to growing households.

Lack of Brand Loyalty
Millennials are less brand loyal than Gen X shoppers and baby boomers. I see this reflected in my own shopping habits as I tend to pick up new products that catch my eye — over a familiar item — due to trendy packaging and a competitive price.

Although millennials are generally price savvy and will compare different brands to find the best deal, they’re willing to spend more on produce and are currently the driving force of organic produce sales. They pay attention to labels and are conscious of ingredients, seasonality and where the item was sourced. Millennials place importance in food standards and production methods and are motivated by educational signage, recipe ideas and preparation tips. As stated in the 2017 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends Report, FMI found that young shoppers value corporate social responsibility and transparency and are likely to use food information and monitoring apps to scan QR codes and food labels.

Considering that young shoppers have helped drive the growth of farmers markets and specialty organic stores, brands and retailers should focus on expanding their selection of locally sourced produce, creating attractive displays and training their employees on seasonality and produce preparation tips.

Whether they’re in the midst of college finals or juggling a full-time job and newborn baby, millennials are busy and looking for ways to maximize their time, hence the popularity of apps like Instant Cart and curbside pick-up services. They reportedly spend less time in the grocery store than baby boomers and Gen X shoppers, but make more frequent trips. A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that higher income millennials spend more on fruits and vegetables while devoting the largest budget shares of any generation on ready-to-eat food. Offering in-store meal kits and value-added items like pre-spiralized and chopped veggies, fajita kits and salad kits can appeal to their busy lifestyle and desire for convenience.

Social Media Savvy
As digital natives, millennials are influenced by the content they see daily on their social media feeds like Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. As a self-proclaimed healthy foodie, I look to my social platforms and favorite blogs for recipe ideas and inspiration, not to mention I can’t miss a single Tasty video. Searching through recipe videos, healthy grocery hauls, and content from my favorite influencers helps me create my weekly shopping list, directly impacting my purchasing habits.

Although they favor convenience, millennials enjoy cooking and the key to success lies in tapping into their desire for healthy meals that are simple to recreate at home. Brands looking to connect with younger shoppers should consider ramping up their recipe index with easy to execute dishes that follow current food trends like Buddha bowls, spiralizer recipes, and meatless options.

Brands can also seek opportunities with digital influencers who reach thousands of shoppers through their social platforms and have a built-in trust with their audience. Opportunities range from mentioning a product in a video to recipe development, and product education.

As more millennials expand their households and enter their peak spending years, marketing departments in the produce industry should examine these purchasing habits and adapt to the changing landscape of shoppers. Delivering quality, convenience and transparency are essential in building brand loyalty with these young and digital savvy shoppers.

(Grace Vilches is the marketing coordinator for Produce for Kids)