Millennials driving shifts in shopping habits

by Keith Nunes
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Marketers strive to understand the millennial demographic .

It may be grim, but one reason millennials have become a key target for marketers is because the baby boomer generation is shifting to a period of adult-only households with many living on fixed incomes, and … well … others are dying. There really is no gentle way to put it and as the baby boomer demographic continues to shrink it will be more important than ever for marketers to understand and deliver products, services and messages that resonate with millennials.

“We are about to have a fundamental shift in spending power,” said Paul P. Lainis, senior vice president of consumer and shopper marketing for IRI, Chicago.

Lainis noted that the shift in spending power from baby boomers to millennials will have a particular impact on food and beverage companies.

“As you get older your ability to identify flavors and tastes becomes less,” he said. “They (baby boomers) will consume much less than they have in the past. That’s not to say there will not be opportunities, but they will be different. There will be categories where there will be growth, but companies have to be cognizant that there will be a shift in volume from baby boomers to millennials.”

One significant shift he identified is in flavor adoption, which he said millennials are driving.

“Look at what has happened with sriracha and harissa,” he said. “Now you see it happening with hummus. The speed of change is accelerating and you can’t guess. You have to have the tools to understand and reach these consumers.”

Developing an understanding of the millennial demographic was a key focus of this year’s IRI Summit, held April 21-22 in Austin, Texas. Speaker after speaker who addressed the more than 2,000 consumer packaged goods marketers that attended the meeting, noted that influencing the millennial demographic will be a challenge as mobile technology becomes more prevalent.

“We are in the midst of a consumer buying revolution, where media and thousands of other influences affect the market,” said Andrew Appel, president and CEO of IRI. “By 2020, 90 percent of digital access will be mobile and the average person who saw 500 ads per day years ago will see 5,000 ads.”

The millennial demographic ranges between 18 to 34 years in age and is the most highly educated of any generation in the United States. It is also the most diverse.

“There are three big topics driving shopper marketing: millennials, Hispanics and baby boomers,” Lainis said. “But from an age perspective, we have to realize Hispanics are rolled up into millennials.”

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