Healthy, wealthy and wise

by Jennifer Bowden / 31 December, 2015
Expect major changes to the way we eat and shop, thanks to the next generation, the Millennials.
Photo/Getty Images
Photo/Getty Images

Within a decade, Baby Boomers’ huge influence on society will be overtaken by the next big generation: the Millennials. Born between the 1980s and the early 2000s, people in this group are vocal consumers who are driving changes in how we live, work and shop. Consequently, the food industry is changing, with savvy manufacturers and retailers developing and expanding offerings to meet their demands.

The sheer size of the impending change is evident in the US, where it’s estimated Millennials over 25 will comprise 19% of the population in 2020, up from 5% in 2010. Historically, US median income jumps 60% after a person’s 25th birthday. At the same time a significant number of Baby Boomers will retire, so their incomes and ­discretionary food budget will drop. According to US researchers, this will lead to an annual $50 billion increase in food-at-home spending by Millennials by 2020 and a $10-15 billion fall for Baby Boomers.

“Millennials are about to double in importance regarding the spend they control,” according to a research report, “Trouble in Aisle 5”, by global investment banking firm Jefferies and global business advisory firm AlixPartners.

Kathy Frampton, who owns New World Northwood in Christchurch, says the importance of Millennials and their views on food were highlighted at the Food Marketing Institute’s (FMI) conference in the US in 2015. “They really demand more from their retailers than ever before.”

Millennials, also known as Gen Y, have become closely aligned with the Real Food Movement. They focus on locally grown and organic food and are willing to pay more for fresh, healthy food. They also want to see the provenance of food and authenticity, and receive health and wellness support from retailers, says Frampton.

After hearing about US supermarkets with resident nutritionists, Frampton was inspired to launch a range of initiatives in her business .

She says we’ve shifted from a re­active health approach where we visit the doctor when sick to focusing more on pro­active wellness, “where we’re trying to prevent it, we’re eating good food, staying connected to our food, being active, getting the right rest, fun, enjoyment and those sort of things”.

One key initiative was adding nutritionist Beck Ward to the in-store team (“Sweet and sour”, November 14). She runs information sessions and food tastings every Wednesday afternoon. Ward has also developed healthy food recommendations in different categories, such as breakfast cereals. The healthier products are signposted in aisles, with each ­recommendation explaining why it’s good for you.

Countdown supermarkets are also adapting to meet the growing demand for healthier foods. By the end of 2015, dedicated health food sections, which include gluten-free and organic foods, had been installed in 65 of Progressive Enterprises’ 182 stores, and more will follow in 2016. Countdown also introduced a Free Fruit for Kids initiative in 2015 that offers fruit for hungry children to snack on while shopping with parents or caregivers.

Work-life balance is important to Millennials, according to a recent report in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, so healthy foods that are quick and convenient are vital.

In US supermarkets, the nutrient content of some fresh food ranges is being supersized, making them a nutritious meal option.

For example, the protein content of salad packs has been bolstered, so a caesar salad or barbecue ranch salad will have lentils, beans or other legumes and pulses, says Frampton.

Millennials also seek products that emphasise health benefits, so specific nutrient content is now often highlighted on food labels in US supermarkets. 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 agenda.

Supermarkets are major contri­butors when it comes to food and packaging waste, so it’s no ­surprise consumers are putting ­pressure on food retailers.

Frampton says, “People are wanting a lot more from us as to what we can offer them in-store, but also what we’re doing as a responsible business, and actually it all ties in together.”

Both major New Zealand supermarket chains are taking steps to reduce waste and promote recycling. Foodstuffs, for example, is working on an initiative to introduce environmentally friendly packaging and is trialling an environmentally friendly meat tray.

Countdown introduced recycla­ble plastic containers for some ­tomatoes, summer fruit and kiwifruit last October. Countdown and New World have joined a trial programme for the collection and recycling of soft plastic packaging, including ­shopping bags and packaging for frozen ­products and bakery items.

Millennials have less brand loyalty and are less tied to the ­one-stop-shop concept of ­supermarkets. They’re a values-driven lot, so it’s little wonder retailers are making an effort to understand how they think, to please and retain them.

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