I will “out” myself as a boomer.
We boomers came of age in a simpler time with three TV stations that played commercials to our moms in plaid dresses. In those days, soap operas actually sold soap. Mom would also read the Wednesday food section in the newspaper, clip the coupons and proceed to the grocery store to buy Tide or Kraft or Jell-O. As foodservice burgeoned in the late 1960’s, brands such as McDonald’s, Hot Shoppes and Dunkin' Donuts etched themselves in our minds.
A recent study of retail brands and millennials indicates a very different relationship to brands. Brand loyalty is not a major pull for millennials. When a national brand they wish to buy is not available on the shelf, four in 10 choose the store brand; one third pick a different national brand but one in eight look elsewhere for the national brand they initially wanted.
Millennials are universally familiar with store brands and buy them regularly. Almost four in 10 said they buy store brands frequently, the highest rate offered in the study. Seventy-one percent said value is the main reason they purchase the store brand product as opposed to the national brand. Product quality improvements and a good prior experience will drive their future store brand purchase.
What are the implications for foodservice?
Here are highlights from a recent study (PwC / June 10, 2014) of millennials and food consumption. Millennials are young, curious, social media-savvy and often spend their parents' money.
- Grocery spend per visit: $73
- Dining out spend per meal: $24
- Number of grocery trips per month: 7
- Number of times dining out per month: 7
These are strong numbers from a large demographic. Most foodservice chains have boomer leadership. We tend to bring our worldview to work and assume that most people are just like us. After all, we believe we are the most educated and social aware generation. So if boomers lead marketing with their brand awareness and strategies, we may be speaking to a group that does not think and BUY as we do.
Millennials want value and VALUES. They are not willing to pay more for a national brand simply because it is familiar; they want to buy products that are fairly priced. They also want brands that represent VALUES like sustainability and fair trade with clean ingredient labels. They buy company’s reputations as much as they buy products. A recent Nielsen study found – “More than half of global consumers are willing to pay extra for products from companies with positive social, environmental impact”.
Now is a good time to get out in the field and specifically ask millennials what they want. Selling soap to customers that want to buy a whole package of clean is out of step with today’s younger consumer. It’s time to shift strategy to a new generation of savvy consumers that want more than three TV stations' worth of choice.
Ed Zimmerman is a pizza industry veteran and President of The Food Connector. His almost four decades of foodservice experience includes food manufacturing and distribution leadership, food industry technology, marketing services and restaurant and grocery operations management.