Group of friends sitting at table and eating together

92 million. That’s the number of people in the largest living generation. No, not Baby Boomers. Millennials. This generation is different in many ways from their predecessors, especially when it comes to food. They want healthy. They want authentic. And they want it right now.

Millennials are challenging the food industry to keep up with their demands, from clean labels and transparency to shopping online and healthy snacks. And as the Baby Boomer generation shrinks, it’s in the food industry’s best interest to leverage transparency, technology, and convenience to appeal to a fast-growing generation.

Take a look at what Millennials expect from the food industry.

Premium food products

Millennials not only prefer premium food products, they expect them — and they’re willing to pay more for them because they believe these products are healthier.

In a recent Maru/Matchbox report, Matt Kleinschmit, managing director of consumer and shopper insights, noted:

“Millennials are discerning consumers, and they are increasingly willing to pay a premium for brands and products that embody their preferences for authenticity, transparency and responsible ingredient sourcing.”

Clean, organic, and GMO-free food

Millennials expect to know what’s in their food and where it came from. In fact, 68% of Millennials pay more for organic labeled foods, which is significantly higher than for older generations.

It doesn’t stop at organic, either. More than 6 in 10 Millennials expect GMO-free food options, compared to 46% of consumers over 50 who don’t put much emphasis on it. Millennials also prefer food labels that address allergen and dietary concerns.

The takeaway for food manufacturers: Once seen as a premium product, clean, organic, GMO-free food is the new normal.

Transparent and authentic brand experiences

What does “authentic” mean? And how can food brands adopt authenticity in their messaging and products? Watershed Research found that food brands need to go beyond a quality product to appeal to Millennials by being upfront about what they do and what’s in their products.

This is one reason the younger generation gravitate towards small, local companies over large food brands. But transparency isn’t something only for the little guys — food brands of all sizes are jumping on this bandwagon.

The takeaway for food manufacturers: Brand transparency and authenticity influence perceptions about a food brand, as well as how Millennials spend their money.

Convenient, but healthy snacks

Millennials make decisions based on convenience and health benefits, so snack foods present an opportunity to connect with a consumer group that never stops moving.

Alongside Gen Z, Millennials incorporate snacks into their regular meal schedules. They snack up to 4 times a day — more than any other generation, according to the February 2017 FutureCast report.

The takeaway for food manufacturers: The idea of three square meals is becoming an anachronism. To stay relevant, food companies need to adapt to the new way of eating.

More online grocery shopping options

Growing up with quickly changing technology no doubt influences this generation very heavily. Convenience now leads the way in their food shopping habits. Forget the weekly grocery store trip. These consumers tend to eat out more than they do at home, prepare meals from delivered kits, and order take-out from their phones.

The takeaway for food manufacturers: Online grocery shopping is on the cusp of taking off big time. Here are some strategies for success.


The Millennial generation is the largest generation in U.S. history. Fueled by convenience, technology, and transparency, Millennials are ushering in new expectations around food.

With those expectations come many opportunities for the food industry. It’s simply a matter of recognizing those opportunities and responding. Suggestions include implementing IoT for farm-to-table transparency, offering more online buying options, and catering to always-on-the-go lifestyles with meal kits.

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