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Millennials drive U.S. Food trends toward sustainibility and traceability

11/01/2016

As an increasing number of Millennials (people born between1977-2000) become old enough to make purchasing decisions, their buying preferences are having a noticeable impact on consumer trends in North America. According to the Hartman Group, currently 1/3 of the U.S. population is Millennials, with $200 billion in annual buying power, plus $500 billion more of buying influence.

Each year Millennials buy more organic and natural products than the year before. Their purchasing decisions are also affected by a strong interest in the environment and social justice. The result, according to the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), is that U.S. consumer awareness and consumer attitudes toward sustainable brands have increased to an all-time high. 85% of consumers are now accepting of sustainable practices. 22% can be considered true leaders in sustainability, while another 63% are increasing their purchases of green products and continually adopting more sustainable behaviors. NMI says that “sustainability is not a trend, it is becoming a cultural shift.” Traceability is another important factor for U.S. consumers, and for Millennials in particular.

Linda Ohr from Nutraceuticals says that “Millennials tend to be more focused on labels and natural foods, so being transparent—not only in terms of healthful ingredients but also in terms of how the foods and beverages are made—will be important.” Food Technology also predicts that a big trend in 2016 will be the need to have “clean labels” with a focus on “natural ingredients, minimal processing, organic certifications and not genetically modified.” As a result, they expect that “food manufacturers will have to continue to make food products that are less processed as consumers demand more transparency and foods that are closer to their natural state.” As consumers seek out more natural, healthy and sustainable foods, there is also a shift in perception related to fat. Jenny Zegler, Global Food and Drink Analyst for Mintel International says that “consumers’ negative stereotype that any and all fat content is evil has begun to diminish.

The awareness of the many sources of good and bad fats is ushering in a paradigm shift in which fat content is not the first and foremost consideration — and barrier — in the search for healthy products.” These trends towards natural foods, sustainability and traceability have extended beyond the grocery store into restaurants and food service as well. The Organic Trade Association (OTA) reports that “the entire food service industry—restaurants, hotels, hospitality and health care—has been waking up to offering organic options.” According to Jeff Clark of the National Restaurant Association (NRA), “Diners want to know as much as they can about what they’re eating, especially when they’re at restaurants. They want to understand everything – from the way a certain food tastes to how the farmer grew it.” The U.S. food industry is recognizing the increasing demand from consumers for clarity on not only the ingredients in the products they buy, but also the story behind those ingredients.

Millennials especially are seeking to have a positive impact on society through their buying decisions, and this presents a great opportunity to those food manufacturers who can successfully connect with consumers by ommunicating a shared commitment to sustainability and natural, healthy foods. SOURCES: NMI as quoted by MarketResearch.com The Hartman Group, Inc. Organic Trade Association’s Organic Report (Fall 2015) http://www.ift.org/Newsroom/News-Releases/2015/ December/16/Food-Technology-Magazine-Editors-ShareTop-10-Food-Trend-Predictions-for-2016.aspx http://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/news_home/ Consumer_Trends/2015/10/Mintel_identifies_emerging_tre.aspx?ID=%7BE321D1B0-65D9430C-86F4-E15BE15819AA%7D&cck=1 http://www.restaurant.org/News-Research/News/ sustainable-food-trends-in-2016

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