Millennial food choices are getting attention and for good reason. According to a recent Forbes article, there are 80 million millennials in America today (about a quarter of the population) who represent about $200 billion in buying power. This eye-catching statistic makes you take notice and corporations are starting to pay attention. In particular, corporations are interested in millennial food choices. Just take a look at McDonald’s recent woes and you can see how this generation is a major influence and factor in food today.
To begin with, about half of the 80 million identify themselves as “foodies.” Food and beverage is not just for sustenance – it’s a form of expression. Social media drives that expression so, in order to build a successful food brand and stay relevant, companies will need to actively engage this generation on multiple platforms.
One area that continues to dominate the food industry is the growth of the fast-casual restaurant concept. Millennials are choosing restaurants like Panera, Five Guys, Chipotle, and now Shake Shack, over traditional fast-food outlets. The fast-casual meal offers a better dining experience, and natural and hormone-free ingredients. In many cases, these restaurants use sustainable materials in both their design and packaging. Traditional fast food brands will need to imitate the fast casual concept by offering food customization; using better quality, natural ingredients; accepting mobile payments; offering craft beer and wine; and using sustainable and environmentally materials at their restaurants.
Millennials’ impact is also being felt in the grocery aisle. New product introductions are rampant and name brand are no longer an auto grab. Private label food and beverage sales are growing – more than $102 billion in 2013 – and millennials in particular strongly support this sector. They see private label items as being more innovative, offering improved quality, and having easy-to-read labels that promote healthier eating with better ingredients.