Over the past few years, millennial values have increasingly influenced and shaped the grocery industry. As the concept of the supermarket evolves to incorporate and align with millennial priorities, food purchasing has become a more efficient, thrifty, and community-oriented process.
Access & Efficiency
Millennials gravitate toward brands that prioritize ease and efficiency, which has impacted food shopping significantly. When millennials shop live (as opposed to online), their interest in efficiency makes them more likely to buy food on an as-needed basis than make a special weekly trip to the supermarket. For example, they’re more likely to purchase food at convenience stores or big-box discount stores than older generations are. In some instances, millennials’ quest for efficiency has cut physical grocery stores out of the picture completely. Postmates and uberEATS are just a few of the app-based meal delivery services that millennials rely on to bring dinner to their door. Many traditional brick-and-mortar supermarkets have followed suit, offering their own home delivery services, such as Peapod and Shipt.
Thriftiness & Rewards
Millennials’ food-spending patterns diverge from those of previous generations in another important way: they’d rather spend their money on impulse “big-ticket” purchases than groceries. They’re happy to buy generic brands, which means grocers have to reconsider their overall inventory, as well as the integrity of their generic, in-house brands. In addition, exclusively online focused food markets are popping up left and right, such as Vitacost and Sunfood, offering specialty (e.g., organic, paleo) items to customers at a fraction of their cost in a traditional supermarket. Millennials’ interest in food-thriftiness has also nurtured the development of restaurant apps that support savings with rewards systems and digital coupons. Of course, food and beverage behemoths like Starbucks and Panera are paragons of the app-and-savings synergy, but smaller city-based eateries, such as Boloco and b.good, are also leveraging this concept successfully.
Community & Engagement
It can be hard to get millennials’ attention, but when brands make the effort, it pays off. Engaged millennials often become a brand’s most profitable and loyal customer. This is the main reason grocery stores and restaurants have been inspired to revamp their roles in their communities. Whole Foods is a trailblazer in terms of building community partnerships. They stock each store with a unique inventory of local foods and beverages (to supplement the nationally consistent staples), and invite local culinary entrepreneurs into their store to offer samples and educate consumers. In the online space, Blue Apron, a leading home-delivery cook-it-yourself meal service, has partnered with 150 farms around the country to ensure customers everywhere can receive local ingredients. (Additionally, Blue Apron commits to working with their farmers to build the Blue Apron menus around crop rotations and sustainability practices, which appeals to the millennial value of ethical business practices.)
As food necessities pop up places other than supermarkets, as technology works to bring food to our front doors, as food-thriftiness takes center stage, and as grocery stores strive to connect with their local communities, millennial values are transforming the way we eat–and, moreover, the way we spend money and buy essentials. The evolution of grocery shopping is proof that millennial preferences and predilections can change commerce, leaving us to wonder: which industry is next?
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