5 Ways Millennials Shop (and How It Affects Health and Nutrition Marketing)


Out with the old, in with the new is the mantra when branding today’s Health and Nutrition products. That’s because a whole new generation of shoppers are changing the rules.

There was a time when the Baby Boomer generation dictated what was on store shelves, but today, the biggest influencers in the food markets seem to be the Millennials. I happen to be one of the nearly 80 million Millennials (also known as Gen Y) born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. I definitely agree that there is a difference between how we shop and the more traditional way Baby Boomers shop.

Here are 5 things Health and Nutrition Marketers should know about the buying habits of Millennials: 

1. Impromptu Purchasing
Baby Boomers are likely to check their pantry, make a list, clip coupons and head to the supermarket with a one-stop shop in mind. Millennials tend to be more impromptu about their meals, so they are more concerned about getting the best ingredients than the best value. For one thing, my generation cooks less. And when we do cook it’s a big deal. The odds are we are following a new recipe we got online, so we want to buy the ingredients as they are listed.


Why it matters:
It adds a new level of difficulty when your target market has inconsistent buying habits, but food trends are big with Millennials. Following the trends and creating recipes that incorporate your product can be a highly effective tactic. Remember to share them online on sites like Pinterest and YouTube, or create a blog that Millennials can turn to for meal ideas. For instance, if you are marketing a gluten-free pasta and Kale is the hot trend, you might share a recipe that incorporates both ingredients.

2. The World is Our Kitchen
As Baby Boomers begin tightening their belts and cooking at home, Millennials are treating restaurants as their second kitchen. 43% of every dollar that Millennials spend on food is spent outside their home, which says a lot, since many struggle with student debt and low-paying jobs. But don’t expect to see a surge in value menus. Millennials seek out fresh, more upscale food, and they go out for the experience as much as for the meal.

Why it matters:
Going forward, Health and Nutrition brands won’t just be fighting for market share against each other. They will also be up against the quality and convenience of higher-end fast food. Depending on your product line, you might consider a partnership with a fresh-fast restaurant, possibly giving them a discount in exchange for a callout on the menu. Making your brand more visible outside of the store environment might ensure you’re on the short list when Millennials go shopping.

3. Grazing
In addition to the fact that we don’t cook as much, Millenials also tend to snack more. This is the effect of limited pocketbooks meeting a desire to eat outside of the home. Millennials would rather nibble on a few wonderfully delicious and nutritious items than gorge on tasteless, empty calories.

Why it matters:
When it comes to marketing off-the-shelf Health and Nutrition products for Millennials, bold flavors and novel combinations are key. After all, if you’re only going to eat a small amount of something, you want that something to be extraordinary. Also, Generation Y is more ethnically and racially diverse than older generations, and according to Pew Research Center, we have grown up eating more global fare.

4. Shop Hopping
Millennials are less brand-loyal and less channel-loyal than Baby Boomers, meaning they rarely choose one brand or store and stick with it. My generation tends to frequent several stores on a regular basis, and may even switch those up on occasion. I personally have no problem stopping at 3 different stores to get exactly what I want. Often I will visit a chain store, a natural food store and a mom-and-pop shop that carries specialty items all in the same day. Why? Because most Millennials aren’t shopping to stock their pantry. We eat out almost as much as we eat in, so we tend to make short lists of specific items for a recipe or event.

Why it matters:
Coupons will probably be less effective with Millennials than recipe ideas. That’s great for Health and Nutrition brands that want to up their ROI. Think about starting a blog and sharing recipes or entertainment ideas online. It’s much more cost-effective and just as easy to track.

5. Label Scouting
In addition to expecting more flavorful food, Millennials expect more consciously created food. That means organic, minimally processed, non-GMO, short list of ingredients, recognizable ingredients, locally grown or produced, grass-fed and probably gluten-free.

Why it matters: Millennials are savvy shoppers, which gives Health and Nutrition food brands an amazing opportunity. For the first time in history, shoppers are more interested in ingredients than price, and that finally gives Health and Nutrition food brands an advantage on the shelf.

If you are interested in learning more about how blogging can improve your Health and Nutrition brand’s reach, you might enjoy my post The Importance of Content Marketing in Health Nutrition Marketing.

1 thought on “5 Ways Millennials Shop (and How It Affects Health and Nutrition Marketing)

  1. When you see the difference in the generations you can see why target marketing is so important. Great article Jessica.

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