Hardy ‘millennials’?

Forget the Baby Boomers and Generation X (oh, and the Echo Boomers and Generation Y). Here come the ‘millennials’.

And just in case you’re thinking, do I really need to bother myself with yet another meaningless artificial construct of underemployed social scientists? – well, yes, you do. The millennials, it turns out, are already big news for the organic and ethical food industry (see story).

Millennials refers to the generation born between 1980 and 2000. In the UK there are already signs that the older part of this cohort are emerging as important ambassadors for Brand Organic. A recent survey by food industry analysts IGD discovered that “shoppers under 35 are twice as likely to want organic food as those over 35”. They’re also “more concerned with ethics, the environment and animal welfare”. Commenting on this in The Grocer magazine last week, Soil Association Certification CEO, Rob Sexton, saw particular significance in the fact that younger consumers seem to understand organic better. They also see it in an overall positive light and are less likely to deflected by controversies stoked up by the media.

Evidence that the millennials’ good intentions are being converted into purchasing decisions is now being seen at the checkout – most clearly in the US, where organic sales have grown right though the recession. Whole Foods Market CEO John Mackey recently told newhope360.com that that the business was doing “very, very well” with 18-32-year-old Americans. He speculates that these consumers have already been primed to choose natural and organic: “They grew up eating whole foods because their parents began it, so they’re already familiar with natural, organic food”. Mackey adds that the “purpose-driven aspect” of the natural and organic movement has a strong appeal to the millennial generation

There’s lots of encouragement to be taken from this – and an important message, too. The millennial generation are buying into real values (that “purpose-driven aspect” mentioned by John Mackey) – and our industry must continue to stay faithful to them. If we do, we’ll be nurturing a generation of hardy millennials.

By Jim Manson

Natural Products editor and environment journalist
Jim Manson is editor of Natural Products magazine. He’s written widely on environment and development issues for specialist magazines and national media, including the Financial Times, The Guardian and Time Out.