Millennials’ approach to food is a taste of things to come

Young people are looking for ethical, healthy food that is also convenient

Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 10:43

Radical changes in the way younger people think about food could have a significant influence on how Irish food companies develop new products in the future.

Those in the 22-30 age group, known as the Millennials, have adventurous tastes and are keen to try new products. However, they also want food that is ethically sourced, as “green” as possible, suitable for snacking, convenient to eat on the go, and healthy.

Irish food producers need to be aware of these trends not only when creating products but also when deciding how to package them, says Helen King, head of consumer insight and innovation at Bord Bia.

“People are now using food and drink as a proxy to express who they are, and no group more so than Millennials, making them an influential target market now encompassing over half-a-million people in Ireland, ” she says.

“Where previous generations relied on music, fashion and TV to help expression, Millennials have firmly added food and drink to that list. Their food and drink choices are actively used to drive their social standing on- and offline, their wellbeing, adventurous spirit, green values and hectic lives.”

Bord Bia believes that capturing the loyalty of Millennials for Irish-made products could hook them for life.

Millennial opportunities are not confined to Ireland. This generation accounts for 7.6 million consumers in the UK.

Influential demographic

To better understand the Millennials, Bord Bia carried out research in May this year (in conjunction with Jump! Innovation) into their lifestyles, aspirations, shopping patterns, purchasing power, eating habits, attitudes to food and use of technology in relation to food.

“Millennials are collecting and talking about food and drink experiences the same way previous generations talked about travel, a great fashion purchase or a new album. Food companies need to connect better with this important and influential demographic,” King says.

The Bord Bia report outlines 10 “rules” for connecting with the Millennials. These include making it easy for them to eat well, fitting in with their fast- paced lifestyles, tapping into their visual culture, and respecting their preferences for ethically sourced products.

An example of Irish-produced food that “fits” the Millennial generation is Natasha’s Living Food, which is grown wild or organically and is free from animal products and chemical processes. The range comprises sweet and savoury snacks and includes superfoods such as kale.

Another example is Skoff Pies from TV chef Donal Skehan. These are described in the report as having “vibrant colours, which will guarantee great shelf stand-out”, a “die-cut mouth shape acting as a window to allow a peek at the product, creating anticipation”, and “ on-trend retro styling”. The report also notes that the Skoff Pies website is very visual, with a high level of social-media integration.

Examples from other producers include John West steam-pot infusions, Belvita breakfast biscuits and Oatly, an oat-based milk alternative that reworked its brand recently to appeal to Millennials’ leanings towards dairy-free and veganism.

Britvic, the producer of Robinsons squash, has developed a no-added-sugar pocket squash product. It comes with a click-shut lid and adult-appeal pack design to overcome sluggish demand and the perception that squash is only for kids.

Closer to home, oats producer Flahavan’s has been making porridge trendy and more appealing for younger consumers by offering it in convenient single servings that can be popped into the microwave.

“Food and drink innovation is less about blue skies and more about renovating and bringing out small little innovations,” King says. “It’s very rare for a new food or drink product to be totally different. Most food and drink innovation is around positioning and tweaking things.

How consumers think

“Companies and individual entrepreneurs need to really understand the consumers that are going to be in their category and how they think and make decisions,” she adds.

“So rather than a food producer just working with a retailer to develop a product, it’s about bringing the consumer on board from the beginning and using consumer insight as the foundation for innovation in food and drink.”

King mentions Yolly lollies from Kerry Group as an example of this. “They are yogurt lollypops that can be eaten either frozen or chilled and are individually portion-sized. Their consumer insight was that young children don’t enjoy yogurt so much and this was a way of introducing them to it in a fun, inviting way.”

Food for thought: Millennials’ tastes

32 % prefer to graze and snack rather than have set meal times

51% would choose the healthy option but only if it is convenient and easy to do so

6.2 Number of times per month Millennials buy convenience food or drink to eat on the go compared with 2.4 times for 48- to 60-year-olds

41% say they are too busy to cook as often as they would like

65 % love finding new products to try when they are grocery shopping

37 % claim there is not enough choice in Irish supermarkets

48% of Millennials are happy to pay more for their food in shops that offer good service and a pleasant environment

Source: Bord Bia report, Understanding Millennials for Better Connections, July 2014

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