Criticizing the consumption habits of young people is a long-standing media tradition. Few generations have come under as much fire as the millennial generation. Barely a month passes without another report about how millennials are destroying major industries through neglect. Much of this frustration with the shopping habits of those in their twenties and thirties is overblown. But, there is a kernel of truth to many of the criticisms that have been leveled at them. Millennials shop differently from their parents, and these changes are impacting the whole economy.
Millennials Are Changing How We Shop for Food
The millennial generation (generally considered to encompass those born between 1981-1996) are about to overtake the baby boomers as the largest generation and the one with the most economic clout. This means that the consumption choices millennials make will have ramifications far beyond themselves. This generation’s preference for online services and more horizontal marketing have disrupted a range of previously powerful industries. It isn’t surprising that they are having a major impact on how the food industry works as well.
Millennials are the first generation of “digital natives.” They’ve grown up immersed in the digital rather than analog world. This means that when millennials approach questions like where to purchase food and what to eat, their first impulse is to go online. They look up places that can refer them to nearby restaurants. They want food delivery services that will bring them food from their favorite restaurants. When it comes to shopping for groceries, they also favor online options that allow them to select what they want and have it delivered.
Millennials are not only different from other generations in terms of their preference for delivery. They also have a very different approach to what kinds of food they want delivered. Extensive studies on millennial consumption habits have shown that they tend to be more health conscious. They’re more committed to eating sustainable food that has been raised in an environmentally friendly way. Many in the millennial generation came of age as the local food movement was becoming popular. Being online means they are often more aware of how the food they eat impacts the earth.
For this reason, many millennials are turning to grocery delivery options geared toward convenience and ethical consumption. For example, the number of people opting to order local meat online is growing. Many younger consumers favor companies that can show exactly where their food is sourced from and how it has been raised. Not only do younger shoppers want to be able to order their steaks online, they also want to know which farm they came from, and whether or not they were grass-fed.
Baby boomers vs. Millennials shopping habits
For decades, the baby boomer generation raised in the affluence of the post-war years dominated markets. They set consumption trends around the world. Boomers tastes were shaped at a time when mall shopping and chain restaurants were exciting new innovations. They tended to value efficiency and predictability over efficiency and environmentalism.
Millennials, who grew up in a world where climate change, rising fuel prices, and sustainability were matters of everyday conversation, are operating off a very different set of assumptions. This has already led to the disruption of several legacy industries. It’s likely that food companies that don’t adapt to this new reality by providing sustainable, local, healthy meat and produce in efficient and convenient ways will find themselves struggling to stay afloat.