The tech-savvy, instant information generation — millennials — just took the lead as the largest generation living, stealing the title from the baby boomers. Currently, the millennials — born between 1980 and 2004 — now pencil in at 75.4 million, exceeding the 74.9 million baby boomers.
I know what you are thinking. Yippee, what does this exactly mean to the average pig farmer beyond the fact that many of us have children or grandchildren belonging to this generation?
Plain and simple, this generation shift will shake up the marketplace. It will mean whole new dynamics when it comes to pork demand. Ironically, since this is the group of participation trophies and the everyone-wins spirit, they may not actually care that as a consumer group they now hold the most influential power.
Today, four generations are regularly making purchase decisions when it comes to food. In fact, the most recent generation — homeland generation (age 0 to 11) — has some influence on consumer purchases. In a few short years, the oldest of the youngest generation will be teenagers, making five generations of consumers.
Still, the two big consumer groups will be the millennials and the baby boomers which sharply contrast. While the baby boomers are mostly old school when it comes to the food they eat, the millennials are not. It is said that diversity is the one thing that sets the millennials apart from any other generation.
Taking a closer look at the millennials
Here are few key characteristics:
- Trapped in their phones: Surprise, surprise, surprise — Millennials sleep near their cell phone and use social media more frequently than any another generation. This is the first generation to have access to the internet during their formative years. Since computers were introduced in schools in the 1970s, this generation has had computer-powered information at their fingertips throughout their entire educational years. Although the technology advancements have evolved greatly, this group is more tuned into a computer screen versus paper. As a consumer, they trust an online review over a friend or family members’ recommendation.
- Diversity: To date, they are the most diverse in race and ethnicity with twice the share of baby boomers identifing a race or ethnicity other than non-Hispanic white. Uniqe to no other generation, many U.S. millennials are immigrants or the children of immigrants.
- Values: Millennials place high value on community and family. Looking at their high school years, many have made a contribution to society and being a leader in their communities is important. They also have strong connections with their parents.
- Education: Over 61% of adult millennials have attended college compared to 46% of the baby boomers. They are also most likely to study social sciences and applied fields that correspond directly to specific careers. A higher percentage also seeks post-graduate degrees. Interestingly, fewer millennials are likely to major in business, health or computer science. For millennials, creativity and innovation are a priority however they have unprecedented enthusiasm for technology. They prefer more creative jobs.
- Economic downturn: Similar to the oldest generation — Silent —, the millennials enter the workforce at rough economic times. Interestingly, workers who start their career in a recession earn 2.5-9% less per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
How to sell to millennials
The biggest challenge, in sustaining pork as the most popular global protein, is keeping up with the ever-changing demand of the millennials. A marketing guru who can predict the next big trend will earn top dollars because one minute the nutritional value may be the most important factor and the next it may be sustainability.
Without a doubt, any communication on food needs to have a robust digital campaign. Many millennials start their shopping experience online since their information gathering has always been generated by computer. This generation does not like face-to-face or telephone communication. So, it is clear that online is the way to communicate. Any message about a product must be done in a creative and fresh way with a strong presence online, especially on social media channels.
As a community-minded generation, the millennial consumer wants a personal connection to a brand. Honestly, they purchase brands that say something about “who they are as a person” and support their values. They will also seek the latest and greatest product that connects them to their passions or a commitment to wellness or sustainability.
For me, farming can easily be connected to a person’s values. However, sharing the real side of farming will require most farmers to channel their inner “millennial” — especially since most of us are generation X or baby boomers. You will have to be “on fleek” and “TBH” when speaking about pork. Translating the world of farming to this generation will take ingenuity, freshness and learning a whole new language.