Creating Genuine Connections with Millennials

by | May 11, 2023

What do avocado toast and 1990s nostalgia have in common? If you thought of Millennials, you’re spot on. Born between 1981 and 1996, Millennials grew up during a time when the internet became widely available. Known for being a tech-savvy generation, many Millennials have vivid memories of getting their first computer, using dial-up home internet, and texting with friends on their flip phones.

Adapting to new technology wasn’t the only thing that shaped Millennials’ coming of age. Most Millennials entered the workforce during the 2008 economic recession. This recession had a “slow start” effect on Millennials’ early adulthood and impacted their life choices and progress toward financial goals. In 2020, 72.26 million Millennials reside in the U.S., and they are the most racially and ethnically diverse adult generation in the country’s history.

Although they’ve received criticism from older generations for being “snowflakes” and “entitled,” Millennials are an ambitious and thoughtful group that values sustainability, continuous learning, and new experiences. Let’s explore some key Millennial food trends (and beverages, too) to discover how brands can engage and create connections with this tech-savvy and diverse generation.

How Can Your Brand Connect with Millennials?

Prioritize Self-Care

Millennials are looking for ways to balance their busy lives. Although self-care was a concept before Millennials came on the scene, NPR reported this generation spends twice as much on self-care essentials to improve personal well-being. They’re likely to have workout regimens, diet plans, life coaching, therapy, and personalized wellness apps.

According to Innova, younger Millennials want to lower stress and improve mood and are interested in alternative therapies and mindfulness activities like Yoga. Older Millennials are more likely to find ways to improve their energy, sleep, and immunity.

Stand Out Statistics

  • 70% of Millennials say they plan to spend more on leisure services and products to treat themselves (Influencer Marketing Hub).
  • 33% of adults 21 to 40 plan on eating more comfort food in the next year (The Food Group).
  • The number of foods and beverages launched in North America with a ‘stress relief’ or ‘sleep’ claim increased by +14% between the 52 weeks ending March 2018 and 2023 (Mintel).
  • Stress and sleep claims showed up in 21 categories in Q1 2023, up from 8 in 2018 (Mintel).

Launch Spotlight

Post Consumer Brands launched Sweet Dreams cereal, made with a nighttime herbal blend containing lavender and chamomile, illustrating one of the Millennial food trends. The grain-based product supports natural melatonin production with zinc, folic acid, and B vitamins and provides an excellent source of vitamin E for neuroprotection. The sleep-focused cereal has two flavors: Blueberry Midnight and Honey Moonglow.

Promotional image of Post Sweet Dreams Cereal

Feature Functionality

Functional foods and beverages have close connections to self-care and health goals. People reach for drinks with adaptogens and nootropics to help them feel less stressed and shop for protein-forward snacks when they want to cut carbs. According to Innova, Millennials look for products with the following functions:

  • Hydrating/rehydrating
  • Improving Sleep
  • Destress/relax/calm
  • Boosting immunity
  • Improving heart health
  • Improving/enhancing mood

Stand Out Statistics

  • Millennials and Gen Z consumers report the highest engagement with functional food and drink (Mintel).
  • 66% of adults 21 to 40 say they plan to increase their intake of functional foods (The Food Group).
  • Food and beverage launches with heart health claims increased 6.4% between 2018 and 2021 but retreated in 2022. Innovation increased in some categories in 2022, such as bread, nuts, sports drinks, and teas (Mintel).

Mintel notes Millennials’ affinity for smoothies, with 92% saying they purchased a made-to-order smoothie in the last six months. Smoothies are a convenient way to add vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants to your diet, and Millennials are interested in exploring ingredient categories like yogurt, nut butters, protein powders, and seeds.

a row of different colored smoothies in mason jars

Launch Spotlight

RawNature5 launched Koia Protein Chocolate Banana Plant-Based Shake in 2023. Powered by plant protein, the dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free beverage delivers 18g of protein using a brown rice, pea, and chickpea blend. Almond and coconut milk, combined with banana puree, cocoa powder, 6g of sugar, and natural flavors, offer fiber, antioxidants, and great taste.

Koia Protein Chocolate Banana Plant-Based Shake

Highlight Adventure and Sustainability

Younger consumers tend to be more adventurous with food and beverage choices, and Millennials definitely aren’t afraid to try new flavors or formats. Avocado toast, quinoa, kombucha, matcha, overnight oats, black ice cream, and jackfruit pulled pork are all food trends this generation helped popularize (some with mixed success).

slices of avacado toast with feta cheese and tomatoes

Stand Out Statistics

  • Groceries are Millennials’ biggest monthly expense (YPulse).
  • 75% of U.S. Millennials who eat fruit say they are interested in exotic fresh fruit (Mintel).
  • 28% of Millennials consume alternative snacks, vs. 21% of Gen X and above (Mintel).
  • And launches of alternative snacks made from cassava, rice, beans, and vegetables, increased +2.6% since 2018. New product activity increased +21.5% in the 52 weeks ending March 2023 (Mintel).

The novelty and functionality of alternative snacks appeals to Millennials, who are likelier to try new types of salty snacks than older consumers (Mintel).

Launch Spotlight

A recent launch that aligns with Millennial food trends comes from the BranchOut brand. Sea Salt with a Hint of Lime Avocado Chips hit retail shelves in the U.S. in early 2023. Real avocado slices crisped with sea salt and natural lime flavor are “bursting with good fats, fiber, and rich, creamy avocado flavor.”

A bag of BrandOut Avocado Chips

Tell Your Brand Story

Millennials care about how brands present themselves, and packaging that tells a brand story is appealing (Mintel). Featuring your environmental efforts or ingredient origins with colorful graphics or bold designs can give shoppers a reason to choose your brand over others on the shelf.

Stand Out Statistics

  • 64% of U.S. Millennials say that telling the story of the brand is important vs. 50% of Gen Zs and 47% of all respondents (Mintel).
  • 40% of millennials are willing to start a new relationship with a business if it positively affects the environment (Influencer Marketing Hub).

Millennials also care deeply about the environment and are more likely than other generations to pay more for products delivering sustainability or social ethical features (Innova).

Launch Spotlight

Airly Chocolate Crackers from Bright Future Foods, USA, focuses on climate-friendly manufacturing practices. One box = 18g CO2 removed from the air through sustainable farming and carbon credits.

A box of Airly Chocolate Crackers

Certified B Corporation, Näak, Canada, recently launched the plant-based Ultra Energy Salted Caramel Waffle containing 4g of protein, a 4:1 carb-protein ratio, and no palm oil.

A package of Näak Salted Caramel Waffles

Partner with FlavorSum

Are you exploring innovations that reflect Millennial food trends and wondering if your new food or beverage launch will create lasting connections? Our insights team can help align your brand with this generation’s unique preferences and tastes. From there, our flavor and applications experts can help you bring your innovative concept to life and onto grocery store shelves. Reach out to our team to learn more!