A ‘Millenial’ mindset

Features - Trends

How produce may be key to attracting and retaining young customers

February 5, 2013
Michael Kovalycsik

Civic-minded, cause-oriented, solution-focused, entrepreneurial, ambitious and idealistic. These are all words commonly used to describe your new customer, member of the Millennial Generation — adults age 18 to 34 who are also called Generation Y and “Echo Boomers.”

The children of Baby Boomers and Generation Xers, millennials are the last generation born in the 20th century. They’ve grown up in a digital age, and they’re fully plugged in. They have close relationships with their parents; many still live at home after completing their education as they search for jobs or return for advanced degrees (and consequently even deeper student loan debt). The recession has hit members of this generation hard, and they realize they’re not going to make $60,000 right out of college.

Lack of economic security has spurred creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit in this generation, however. More members of Generation Y are starting businesses than earlier generations. A 2012 report by the Kauffman Foundation reports that 29.4 percent of entrepreneurs are 20 to 34 years old, and roughly 160,000 start-ups a month were led by millennials in 2011.

Money + Conscience = Perfect customer

The school of hard knocks has taught millennials the benefits of hands-on work. As a result, this generation has become less elitist than their parents about any distinction between white- and blue-collar jobs. Instead, this generation feels a general sense of distrust for large organizations and government. Their mantra focuses more on people, plant and profits.

Millennials like getting their hands dirty and working outside. They are concerned about the environment, and they value local businesses and enjoy cooking and experimenting with new foods. Despite their high student loan debts and disproportionate earnings, their values make millennials likely to spend more money on food that has been grown locally and sustainably by a small grower or community farm than from traditional grocery chains. Or they’ll be creative and use the space they have to grow their own. Long story short – members of the Millennial Generation are your ideal customers.

Healthy food and affordability
For years, consumers have said they cannot afford to eat fruits and vegetables. Past studies have measured the price of groceries based on a price-per-calorie scenario, in which fruits and vegetables were frequently found to be more expensive than snack foods like chips or candy.

A recent USDA study addressed this issue (1.usa.gov/Vl5ZeU) by calculating food costs on price-per-calorie as well as price-per-edible-weight (calculated price based on weight of food prepared) and price-per-average-amount (how much people actually eat of the food). Foods used in the study came from a database of more than 4,000 items that were sorted into several groups — grains, dairy, fruit, vegetables and proteins, as well as mixed dishes and less healthy items.

Here’s what USDA found:

If the price-per-calorie model is used, fruits and vegetables tend to be more expensive than less healthy food.

If the price-per-edible-weight or the price-per-average-amount is used, grains, vegetables, fruits and dairy foods are less expensive than most protein foods and less healthy food.

Let’s not forget the ultimate cost of food: long-term health. Generation Y consumers are realizing that using food as medicine is better for them both now and in the long run by preventing illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.


Michael Kovalycsik is the national sales and marketing director of Delta T Solutions, which designs, manufactures and integrates heating systems for horticulture and agriculture applications. For more information, call (800) 552-5058 or visit deltatsolutions.com.