How To Appeal To The Millennial Palate

The Millennial Generation is a generation in flux: 17-to-35 year olds make up about 24% of the U.S. population. Some are in college; some are recent grads living with their parents. Others are married professionals caught in the work/family crunch. 

Millennials represent $890 billion in annual buying power, making them a very appealing market. But this generation is also the most racially and ethnically diverse of any generation, and its needs and wants are just as varied. This includes the Millennial palate. 

From ordering takeout online to hosting elaborate dinner parties, Millennials have widely varied eating habits. It’s almost impossible to succeed with a single-armed marketing approach; the trick is targeting sub-segments of the group and understanding their unique lifestyle. 

Despite this segment’s diversity, there are a few commonalities to keep in mind when trying to reach Millennials.

Reaching Millennials When They’re Hungry

Many Millennials are constantly on the go: fresh out of college, living at home or on their own, working part-time jobs or facing an otherwise irregular schedule — not to mention plenty of change and a tight budget. 

Many don’t have a regular eating scheduling, and they need food that’s quick, cheap, and easy to get at off-times (i.e., “fourth meal”). Foods that are convenient and fit into this demographic’s variable schedule are all the more alluring, such as the increasingly popular “fast casual” dining experience offered by restaurants such as Panera, Chipotle, and McAlister’s Deli.

Fostering the Foodie Lifestyle 

Not all Millennials are in a stage of transition, though. Some are recently married or newly employed. These lifestyles foster a more consistent schedule that doesn’t jive with 4 a.m. runs to Taco Bell. Often, these Millennials see food not just as fuel, but as an experience. They host dinner parties, love trying different types of ethnic food and eating experiences, and embrace a “foodie” lifestyle. 

Members of this generation grew up watching cooking shows, so they tend to be amateur chefs who are comfortable in the kitchen. They love to experiment and try new things, and it’s an indulgence they can afford. 

Millennials see food as a cheap adventure to have on a minimal budget. Just $10 worth of ingredients can be enough to try their hand at a particular dish at home. And thanks to visually driven social networks like Pinterest, sharing favorite recipes or cooking tricks is a community activity. 

3 Underlying Values Millennials Share

No matter their schedules or stages in life, most Millennials share several core values. They are turned off by salesy messaging and value transparency. Keep these values at the center of your marketing approach to win over this generation:

1. Authenticity

Millennials are cynical, so they’ll easily see through any marketing whitewash or BS. And as they get older, bolder, more secure, and more confident, they are only going to become more astute consumers. 

Millennials seek authenticity in the food they eat, the products they buy, and the experiences they have. They value brands that are honest about where their food comes from, how it’s processed, and what sustainability efforts they’re engaged with.

2. Autonomy

Millennials want to make up their own minds about whether you’re real or not, so a more subtle approach will go further than a forced marketing message. The more your brand tries to convince Millennials of something, the less likely they are to believe it.

3. Authorship

Millennials are always looking for ways to make their mark and be the creators of something. Empower them with recipe ideas, compelling stories about where food came from, or a feeling that their purchase is making a difference.

Meeting Millennials Where They Are

At the end of the day, Millennials can be a very misunderstood generation. Some are living with their parents, eating whatever the family is eating, and snacking on the side. Others are embracing their independence and a social “foodie” culture. Still others are off on their own adventures, not conforming to the 9-to-5 ideal. 

This is a diverse group, but at the heart of this demographic is a desire for transparency and authenticity. Let them see that there are real humans behind your brand — not just stockholders — and that you’re doing the best you can. 

Really, what Millennials want is to be met where they are. They want food choices that are convenient, adventurous, and conducive to their social lives. They want brands that they can engage with and feel good about. And they want to be responsible for deciding whether or not your brand is legitimate. 

By understanding the way Millennials think, you can present a strong message that speaks to their lifestyle and still allows them to be the ultimate judge of your brand’s character.

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