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    Shopping Like a Millennial

    Study finds fresh produce fits this generation?s minds, menus and baskets.

    There?s good news for retailers, coming out of new research on the Millennial generation. Not only does Millennials? shopping behavior make them receptive to increasing sales on healthy, high-margin fresh produce, but their habits also demonstrate this is a consumer segment that all supermarket retailers can compete for.

    Despite popular belief, Millennials don?t just shop at cool and unconventional retailers. While they love these stores, many actually shop at mainstream retailers most of the time and reserve unconventional channels for special occasions. In fact, the majority spread their shopping across many channels and retailers. Adding to this picture is the massive size of the Millennial generation ? bigger than the Baby Boomers and three times the size of Generation X ? and that Millennials drive consumer trends across generations. Therefore, it?s easy to see why understanding and engaging Millennial is important for all retailers.

    These and other insightful findings come from ?Outlook on the Millennial Consumer 2014,? a syndicated study conducted by The Hartman Group and purchased by Produce Marketing Association (PMA) The study demonstrates how the intrinsic qualities of fresh fruits and vegetables dovetail nicely with this generation?s shopping habits.

    Keeping it Real

    For starters Millennial views on health and wellness are intensifying as they mature More are eating at home and choosing foods more purposefully at the store They?re increasingly scrutinizing package labels and selecting foods and beverages with few additives The Hartman study also finds that Millennial are less swayed by traditional nutritional markers on packaging, like health claims and calorie content, and also wary of marketing claims.

    Instead, intuition and common sense are what most Millennials rely on when determining what to eat. They also tend to focus on the positives, placing greater attention on what?s good to eat than on avoiding what?s bad to eat.

    Hartman?s research further tells us that this generation is more likely to pay attention to social callouts including product narratives and origin stories. When asked what packaging information they consider when deciding what to purchase, 19 percent of Millennials surveyed mentioned that ?company/product narrative? is important, compared with only 11 percent of Baby Boomers. ?Made with organic ingredients? is noteworthy among 23 percent of Millennials, versus 16 percent of Boomers.

    Economic Realities

    It?s important to keep in mind that the Millennial generation has been particularly hard hit by the Great Recession (2007?09). They?re dealing with high unemployment, low income and high student loans. While Millennials are committed to social morals, they?re not always as committed to these ideals in their purchasing decisions, because doing so comes at a higher cost.

    Only about a third of Millennials take these concerns into account when making purchase decisions: 34 percent said environmental concerns are important when deciding what to buy, while 36 percent said social justice or well-being is important in their purchase decisions. While they want to support companies that share their values and concerns, price often remains a barrier to purchase.

    In Store

    Even though more Millennials eat out than older cohorts, they increasingly enjoy cooking and would like to cook more. This generation?s desire for flexibility and spontaneity is reflected in their meal planning. Eighteen percent of Millennials buy fresh ingredients on the same day they prepare food, while weekly stock-up trips and large baskets are less the norm.

    With this tendency toward impromptu meal planning, it?s no wonder Millennials make more trips to the store than other generations. Millennials taking part in the Hartman study averaged nine retailers in the last 90 days for groceries. They shop wherever is close by at the time and at a variety of retailers to meet their needs of the moment. Stores like Whole Foods, Mariano?s and Trader Joe?s appeal to Millennials, but don?t always fit into their routines and budgets.

    Beyond location and price, Millennials value retailers that provide robust in-store experiences. Retailers with abundant fresh, prepared, semi-prepared and convenience foods appeal to this generation. Furthermore, Millennials value any retailer, mainstream or otherwise, that provides sampling, a more intimate experience and footprint, a knowledgeable and helpful staff, and, of course, deals. Coupons and promotions are still appreciated by these consumers.

    On the Horizon

    Fruits and vegetables have high appeal for this generation. Fresh produce is a no-brainer when it comes to health, making it perfect for Millennials? commonsense approach to eating. The industry?s agrarian, familial roots offer a trove of company and brand narratives Millennials can feel good about. Plus healthy eating with fruits and vegetables doesn?t break the bank.

    The good news is that all retailers have the opportunity to increase produce sales by helping Millennial consumers reconcile their need for convenient affordability with their desire for fresh, healthy eating experiences. The bad news is that targeting the Millennial is a misguided goal because individuality and diversity are two of the most important characteristics of this consumer segment, so there?s no one-size-fits-all strategy But as Hartman?s research points out, many common ties bind Millennial together. Understanding these commonalities can provide retailers powerful insight into the entire landscape of consumer trends.

    ?Outlook on the Millennial Consumer 2014? is now available at www.pma.com.

    Fresh produce is a no-brainer when it comes to health, making it perfect for Millennial commonsense approach to eating.

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