Friday, March 20, 2015

Millennials Like Good Food. They Will Try Everything.

A Groupon email yesterday had this subject line: Eating—It’s the Fad Sweeping the Nation! I could not agree more. For many, eating today is more about the experience than sustenance. This is being driven by Millennials, who are more than a demographic. Being a Millennial is actually a state of mind.

How Millennial are you?

Pew Research Center developed a 14-item quiz to determine how Millennial you are on a scale from 0 to 100. You can access it HERE.

Your responses are compared to those of respondents to a scientific nationwide survey. You can also find out how you stack up against others your age. (I scored an 80, which is pretty darn good for a Gen-Xer. My 32-year-old niece, a prime Millennial, scored 98.)

Celebrating Good Food
Yesterday was also the first day of the 11th annual Good Food Festival & Conference in Chicago. I was fortunate to attend some sessions and met and heard some movers and shakers in the Good Food movement. By the end of the day, it became very clear, Good Food is what Millennials want.

The words natural, organic and GMO never came up during an incredibly moving speech by Chef Rick Bayless. Rather he emphasized local agriculture and deliciousness.

Bayless opened his first restaurant, Frontera Grill, in Chicago, 28 years ago today, and since has been a major influencer of changing the way chefs procure produce, meat and other ingredients in The Windy City. And, as he pointed out, at O’Hare airport, where Frontera operates a quick-serve restaurant run on the same principles as his downtown sit-down establishments.

He said he knew early on the only way he was going to succeed in the highly competitive Chicago restaurant scene was if he served up a plate of deliciousness. This was only going to be possible by sourcing the freshest ingredients, which, of course, is not the easiest thing to do in the Midwest. But he found a way, and today that way has become the Rick Bayless Farmer Foundation, a very impressive program designed to support local farmers. To read more about it, link HERE. This was the first time I had heard of it, and I remain in awe.

To read more about the Good Food Festival & Conference, link HERE.
A big thanks to Organic Valley, the only dairy to be an official sponsor of the event. (Loved the protein drinks you provided.)

What became apparent to me at the conference is that yes, organic, natural and non-GMO are important to a fast-rising number of people—the Millennials—but at the same time, if you are buying good food, consumers trust that these foods are made as organic, as natural and as free of GMOs as possible.

At lunch I spoke with a Millennial entrepreneur from Ohio who said he understands that GMOs are necessary to make food affordable and available to the many people hungry in the U.S. and around the world. (The guy is a genius in my book. Nice to have met you Nick.)

After Bayless spoke, there was a panel discussion featuring Good Food business success stories. Julie Smolyansky, CEO of Lifeway Foods, along with three other entrepreneurial leaders spoke about their early beginnings and how they became the success they are today. The unified theme was simply doing the best possible to offer consumers the best good food, along with investing in the communication of this goodness.

Let’s face it. Gone are the days of families eating frozen TV dinners. (Remember those metal trays? If you were lucky, you got one with dessert…some scary chocolate mush.) Though I occasionally crave my mom’s quick Friday Lenten fix…Kraft mac and cheese mixed with canned tuna and canned peas…it is highly doubtful Millennials have ever tasted or ever will taste what once a staple meal for many.

There’s no doubt that changing American demographics and the evolving food culture are affecting how we live, shop and eat. The good news for the dairy industry is that we produce some pretty darn good food. It’s a good time to be in dairy…but it is critical that you understand how to communicate your products’ goodness to consumers.
Source: IDDBA, Engaging the Evolving Shopper survey, 2014

IDDBA’s latest study, “Engaging the Evolving Shopper: Serving the New American Appetite,” concurs that Millennial shoppers are at the forefront of the “New American Appetite.” From this study, conducted by The Hartman Group Inc., IDDBA has developed an on-demand webinar entitled “Tapping the Momentum of Millenials in Fresh Perimeter Categories.” This includes dairy. You can view the webinar HERE.
Source: IDDBA, Engaging the Evolving Shopper survey, 2014

The Hartman Group’s research shows that Millennials engage with fresh perimeter categories differently than Boomers. Millennials use the fresh parameter both as a healthy source for ready-to-eat meals and snacks, and for fresh ingredients to cook. Dairy marketers are smart to offer more convenience options.

Millennials shop more frequently. They want fresh ingredients purchased the same day. Dairy marketers are smart to offer smaller sizes of products for one-time use.
Source: IDDBA, Engaging the Evolving Shopper survey, 2014

Millennials will try everything. They think in terms of ethnic cuisines, sometimes even regional specificity. 

Selection and wide variety in the dairy department resonates with Millennial shoppers. They want good food. They want more local food.

This is an easy one for dairy!

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