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Musings on the Foodservice Industry

Big Brands & Businesses Are Listening to Millennial ‘Likes’

There’s a new world on the street and savvy business leaders and marketers are paying attention to what the young generation likes and how it behaves.


Specifically, the focus is on millennials, who at 18-31 years of age are considered today’s generation. This age cohort is dictating how the business world must change its go-to-market strategy to capture its disposable dollars.


Millennials have surpassed baby boomers – the post-World War II generation – to become the largest generation in U.S. history. According to the Mintel report “Marketing to Millennials,” some 79 million or nearly 25% of the U.S. population fall into this category.


“If you look at the millennials, they are the first generation now who are willing consciously to spend more for better quality, for sustainability, for traceability. I think there is a change,” Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, chairman of Nestlé told CNBC.


Millennials feel a personal connection to their preferred brands. According to Boston Consulting Group (BCG), half of millennials said brands “say something about who I am, my values and where I fit in.”


Millennials are constantly seeking the latest and greatest products that strike a chord with them, create a connection, and make them feel exclusive whether it is a passion for a hobby, a commitment to wellness or a sustainability promise.


Faced with this new reality, businesses can’t hide behind clever marketing campaigns that made them seem like they stood for something important. Today they must stand for higher values and become credible when marketing to millennials. The younger generation is smarter and takes pride in knowing which brands are backing up their campaigns with demonstrable actions. According to Corporate Citizenship (PDF), 81 percent of millennials expect businesses to act on the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Millennials’ preferences toward sustainable concepts transcend mere ecologically based principles. For them, sustainability is a lifestyle that encompasses green principles, environment, health, human rights, justice, diversity, clean energy, no hunger, climate control and other topics. Nielsen confirmed that when purchasing a product, millennials first consider if it is inherently sustainable or manufactured in a sustainable manner and the manufacturer is socially responsible.


Social media proficiency is essential when attempting to capture a millennial audience. For brand owners, social media tools provide avenues to connect conveniently with and engage these consumers — even when the engagement is in response to negative feedback on products and services.


As the most sustainability-conscious generation, a recent study from Nielsen and Deloitte showed that millennials are most willing to pay more for products and services seen as sustainable or coming from socially and environmentally responsible companies.


Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman, a well-known global sustainability leader whose diversified multinational has integrated pursuit of the SDGs throughout its business operations and co-founder of the Global Commission on Sustainable Development, summarized the bottom-line benefits of addressing this trend and audience: “Every business will benefit from operating in a more equitable, resilient world if we achieve the SDGs. We have an opportunity to unlock trillions of dollars through new markets, investments and innovation.”

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