But what really makes them different, and why should marketers care? Thirty-year CPG industry vet and strategy consultant at nutritional rating firm Guiding Stars Licensing Co., John Eldridge, told FoodNavigator-USA that as much as the industry has studied this authenticity-minded, plugged-in generation, it will continue to surprise.
“When a new generation comes along, we as an overall group of business people and experts have a natural tendency to underestimate the influence of emerging generations,” Eldridge said. “I think Millennials are going to surprise us in ways we’re really not anticipating. Some of that will have to do with their outlook, attitudes and values, some with information technology and the way it keeps evolving so rapidly.”
Less ‘big brand’ awareness, less loyalty
Indeed, a 2014 report from the Hartman Group titled “Outlook on the Millennial Consumer” found that Millennials shop all retail channels and tend to go most often to stores in close proximity. They connect with brands that have good prices, similar values and a personality they can relate to—in particular, one that’s playful or quirky and "gets" their sense of irony.
“Generally speaking, Millennials are certainly less conscious of traditional brands and less loyal,” Eldridge said, responding to the Hartman Group study. “They’re probably a little more tuned into emerging brands or brands that have personality.”
The generation also leads the way in seeking out natural and organic ingredients, products that are locally grown and made and are free of GMOs and allergens—a trend Eldridge says will likely continue. “To the extent that manufacturers really want to resonate with Millennial shoppers, they need to continue to emphasize natural, organic and clean ingredients in at least part of their portfolios.”
Because Millennials came of age during a time of proliferating technology and mobility, both are instrumental in how they get information and operate, Eldridge said. He pointed out that they’re more inclined than previous generations to use mobile apps before and during shopping trips, and more prone to share information about products socially with peer groups.
But instant access to so much information can have its downside, too—more specifically, an erosion of consumer trust when it comes to marketing claims.
“Millennials are very tuned into doing rapid research on products, trends and services they’re interested in. They’re able to gather more information and debunk things, if you will, much more quickly than past generations could or would. Because of that, they're more immediately aware of how claims about products can be unsubstantiated and they have more inherent suspicion than Baby Boomers and seniors.”