01 December 2015
By Tetra Pak Editorial Team 
It may seem counter-intuitive, especially given Millennials’ $1 trillion a year buying ‘habit,’ but nearly 40 percent of our nation’s 80 million Millennials are unemployed, according to a Pew Research Center report released late last year. And a third of those young adults are still living at home with their parents. Still, this doesn't seem to be stopping them from spending like it’s going out of style.

It’s a bit confusing. Especially since Millennials are enthusiastic consumers of technology, apparel and food but, oh yes, they hate to be sold anything.

One point that may intrigue food and beverage businesses that wish to sell to this challenging but profitable market is that many Millennials’ purchases fall into the category of ‘guilty pleasures’: Gourmet coffee. Upscale fast food (Chipotle, Panera and Starbucks.) A spontaneous road trip. Ordering an expensive meal even when short on cashEating alone. Anything good that might cost too much but you want anyway.

Some Millennials may lack cash, but they are ready to spend what they have indulging their tastes for local food, exotic ingredients and high-end dining experiences, note sForbes.

The secret to appealing to Millennials on ‘guilty pleasures’ (and the not-so-guilty products that want to borrow that tempting sales appeal) is to highlight the pleasure, not the guilt. For instance, coffee with a fancy name such as latte, mocha, frappe, cappuccino and so on sounds like a special delight and will tempt Millennial consumers more than an inexpensive cup of regular coffee. Millennials are also fond of ‘add-ons’ and ‘add-ins’ such as syrups, whipped cream, steamed milk, chocolate pieces and all those sprinkles at Pinkberry.

Another potentially winning strategy for attracting Millennials: Packaging in the supermarket should draw attention to exotic ingredients and healthy constituents with high-impact graphics.

What is it about these guilty pleasures that call ‘buy me’ to Millennial customers? Analysts have noted many factors that may contribute. For instance, drinking coffee and eating good food can be intensely social activities—and Millennials love hanging out with their friends, especially in hip, comfortable surroundings like the Starbucks on the corner.

And coffee isn’t the only reason Starbucks remains high on Millennials’ lists. These young consumers appreciate free, reliable Internet access; friendly service; cool music; and clean bathrooms. The lesson couldn’t be clearer. To attract Millennials, offer added value.

Millennials are also gravitating to chains like Chipotle because they espouse their values. Chipotle, in particular, focuses on offering fresh food fast, which appeals to Millennials’ desire to eat better. And these young consumers seem to appreciate the focus on the food instead of on advertising, notes Forbes.

How can food and beverage producers sell even more to this picky demographic?

According to Forbes, the factors that appeal to Millennials include healthy ingredients, entertaining restaurants and a preference for digital engagement—and the magazine suggests that restaurant chains and food and beverage companies wishing to sell to this market segment need to adapt to these new realities. Additional key ideas include‘organic,’ ‘free range,’ ‘grass-fed’ and ‘hormone-free’—along with devotion to animal welfare, the local-food movement and a preference for all things natural.

Most important, Millennials view food and beverages as both entertainment and self-expression. The right package with a knock-out graphic message and text that appeals to their ‘guilty’ senses as well as their idealism will remind them that their not-so-guilty-pleasures include your products.

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