Food Technology Magazine
Wednesday, August 2, 2017

This article was originally published in the July 2017 edition of Food Technology New Zealand Magazine. 

According to statistics, Millennials account for more than 14% of New Zealand’s population, making them a significant impact on their consumer economy. As this generation begins to harness their spending power, they will have a massive impact on retail through their spending habits. Consequently, the food industry is changing, with savvy manufacturers and retailers developing and expanding offerings to meet their demands.

As we learn more about this demographic through research and data, there are some key trends we see shaping this generation’s food purchases:

1. Doing their research and shopping for their groceries online

New Zealand Millennials are much more likely to research and shop online compared to members of previous generations, with an average of more than 23 hours of internet usage a week. More than one-third of Millennials exceed this average, far more than older consumers. The implications for food marketers and retailers are vast — from product and packaging development to transport and communications.
With ’always-on’ access to a world of information, Millennials rely on online forums and social networks to educate one another, share tips and personal experiences. A brand’s reputation strength becomes even more critical when experiences become viral and available to consumers in every part of the world. 
Today’s shoppers are increasingly online - even when it comes to their groceries. By 2025, the percentage of New Zealand online shoppers over the age of 18 will inflate from 58% to 80%. This presents an interesting challenge for the food industry and packaging companies like Sealed Air.

2. Looking for nutritional, but more importantly convenient meal options

In New Zealand, Millennials are already the largest population in the workforce and by 2020, they will make up the majority, with schedules getting busier and less time than ever for meal preparation. Given this reality, consumers have opted for convenience with ready meals, portioned packaging and packages with re-closable features that also extend food shelf life. At the same time, they have become more focused on the nutritional qualities of the snacks they buy. Eight-two percent of Millennials are concerned about the nutritional content in their food, which is why specialty and organic stores have become increasingly popular. Demand for natural, organic and free-range food has been driving the market for the past several years and only continues to grow. Millennials also seek products that emphasise health benefits, so specific nutrient content on food labels is an important consideration. They are also more likely than other age groups to be concerned about the environment, and climate change, resource saving and recycling are high on their agendas.

3. Connecting their identities to the products they buy

Millennial consumers need to feel good about the brands they support. Social responsibility and issues like food waste and recyclability are important to this demographic. As supermarkets become more aware of issues like food and packaging waste, it’s no surprise retailers are taking steps to utilise solutions that reduce in-store markdowns and throw-aways to reduce food waste while also promoting recycling of plastic materials. Countdown introduced recyclable plastic containers for some tomatoes, summer fruit and kiwifruit last October, and the supermarket chain has joined New World in a trial programme for the collection and recycling of soft plastic packaging, including shopping bags and packaging for frozen products and bakery items. When a third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted from farm to fork, there is a tremendous opportunity to educate consumers and inspire them to help make a difference. Millennials are already willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings they believe in—now food and packaging companies need to provide education on sustainable solutions like food packaging.

4. Seeking quality for a diverse palate

The Millennial generation is more ethnically diverse than previous generations, both in the US and in New Zealand. The New Zealand culinary experience is a relatively recent one, having moved from a culture stemmed from the British colonial heritage to a diverse, post-migration one.
A Massey University report, Migrant Spaces and Places, found the wave of Asian migration in the past two decades has transformed the food landscape of
New Zealand, especially in major cities. The demand from the migrant community has also grown large enough, leading to greater experiment and adding to imported cuisines and native influences on supermarket shelves. 
According to Nielsen in a 2016 report on retail lessons, Auckland’s population is projected to grow from 1.2 million to 1.5 million people, also encompassing a growth in ethnic population. These indicative trends require both manufacturers and retailers to have strategies in place to cater for the 'new' New Zealand.
As we consider this important demographic, it’s no question that Millennials are influencing the brands and products available today and shaping the food industry as we know it. Retailers and manufacturers must be ready to respond to the influence and needs of this growing demographic. A sound understanding of this demographic is crucial to long-term business success and sustainability.
View the excerpt in Food Technology New Zealand Magazine by clicking the PDF below.
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