Thinking about Millennials and organic

Millennials. The term has recently come under scrutiny for being overused at best and pejorative at worst. We’ve blamed this demographic for a variety of societal and economic ills, the conditions for most of which were set decades before their birth.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Millennials are the largest population group. Born between 1981 and 1997, they number 75.4 million, and have recently surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest group of voting-age American adults.

OTA’s 2017 U.S. Families’ Organic Attitudes and Behaviors Study takes a deeper look at this population group, whose emergence as the next major shopper cohort stands to radically alter the marketplace for organic products.

There are three key things we know about the heaviest purchasers of organic. They associate organic with better parenting; they are willing to pay more for organic products; and they were raised eating organic foods and taught to make organic choices. For the most part, these characteristics are consistent for heavy organic shoppers across age groups.

Meanwhile, within the Millennial generation, there are big differences in the ways individuals with and without children view organic. Millennials without children do not (yet) value organic as highly as Millennials with children. These individuals tend to be younger, have lower incomes, and are more likely to be single.

However, both groups feel it is important to choose organic products for babies and kids, an indicator that as they become parents, Millennials are poised to become the next wave of organic shoppers.

When asked to rank the importance of organic in a variety of categories, shoppers selected “baby food” with the highest frequency (52%), followed by fruits and vegetables (49%), and kids’ foods, with 39% of organic shoppers saying it is extremely important to choose organic foods for kids. All other categories scored lower (including dairy, meat, breads and grains, supplements, pet foods, packaged foods, and beverages).

Critically, even light and non-buyers say that it is important to make organic choices for baby and kids’ foods.

The arrival of children represents a watershed moment for any family. For many, it initiates a shift in focus from individual concerns toward ensuring the health and welfare of the family. Few areas of domestic life are left unaffected. For example, Millennials, famously eco-conscious as a cohort, are significantly more likely to engage in nearly every eco-conscious behavior once children are part of the household.

Is your brand reaching Millennials—those who have kids and may be actively seeking organic, as well as the shoppers of tomorrow? These individuals are more likely to learn about a new product on YouTube, “like” or share a product on social media, and access in-store coupons on their mobile devices.

In other words, to reach the next wave of Millennial parents, marketers must target digital platforms, with a strong emphasis on social media and mobile devices in particular.

Moreover, while not all Millennial shoppers prioritize organic in the short term, smart messaging strategies will focus on continued education around what “organic” means, while reinforcing the existing connection between organic and good parenting.   //

Angela Jagiello, Associate Director for Conference & Product Development for the Organic Trade Association, writes about organic trends (ajagiello@ota.com).

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