The Millennial Mindset: Part 1: Visibly Sustainable

Welcome to a short series of consumer and cultural trends.

New trends are a result of changing market behavior predominately influenced by the Millennial Mindset. Think tanks that watch for the emergence of consumer behavior have a better understanding of where consumer trends are heading.

We have seen recently that a majority of these new trends are directly related to food.  Other cultural trends tend to be bigger movements that have not yet made the progression into the food arena.  The key is to be on the upside of these new trends as they are gaining momentum because as time continues, the moment to capitalize decreases.  The opportunity is to bring new products into the food market that capitalizes on the bigger cultural movements.  This tends to allow a brand to be first or have more impact in the marketplace.

Below is a synthesis of the key Millennial Mindset trends influencing food today. This post focuses on trend number one.

Trend #1: Visibly Sustainable

Millennials are a generation that builds stronger connections to brands that promote sustainability in addition to corporate responsibility.  The combination of these two key values encourages companies to implement viable business practices throughout the entire ecosystem. That includes suppliers, consumers, employees and more.  Additionally, brands are now being looked at as living organisms.  Millennial Mindset consumers will look for brands that bring greater awareness to all stages of the product lifecycle:  from vendor-partner selection, to the output of waste, to the sustainability of manufacturing, to transportation of products, to controlling food waste at the end of product usage.  All of these aspects of the product lifestyle must be brought to the attention of consumers by using a more authentic approach than what we have previously seen.

In general, consumers are reaching the point where it takes an incredible amount of effort to live a more sustainable life. The trend is to now purchase brands and products that make it easier to maintain this sustainable lifestyle without putting in more effort to do so on their own.

Key take-aways:

  • Brands and products that have a deeper sustainable story will resonate more with Millennial Mindset consumers.
  • Keep portion size in mind.  Products that allow consumers to only open and use what they need while providing permanently sealed packaging for what is not used is more valued within the environmentally friendly demographic.  Consumers more concerned with product lifecycles do not want to throw away packaging just to bring out other storage containers for the same purpose.  This trend shows us that wasting food is the enemy of a sustainable lifestyle.

Millennials are reshaping the food industry.  They shop differently, they view brands and private labels differently and they have different views on what high quality food is.  Their values and beliefs are influencing Millennial Mindset consumers across generations.  Having a better understanding of what is driving the Millennial Mindset consumer in your category should be the new standard for NPD.

A note about the trends – we certainly carried out our own secondary search to gain more insight about where the true landscape is.  We retrieved information from top think shops like Mintel, Nielsen, in addition to a multitude of other resources.  We also used our own proprietary research, including one of the largest quantitative studies conducted on the attitudes of Millennials and a follow-up study on Millennial parents (called “Millennials as New Parents: The Rise of a New American Pragmatism”).  This study identified five unique parenting segments and attitudes.  No other two studies provide such an in-depth look into the Millennial Mindset.

Brands today should work to create a culture of innovation.  Consumer insights should be shared with all disciplines within the organization.  The brand must be owned by everyone employee.  Innovation can come from anywhere.


Brad is an expert in private label and challenger brand food marketing for Barkley, an integrated marketing and advertising agency. He specializes in working with manufacturing-driven food companies that have aspirations to develop a consumer insight-led strategies to help drive innovation and growth.

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