Millennials in agriculture – Part 2, George Silva from Michigan State University

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Millennials tend to be discerning consumers willing to purchase food brands and products that embody their preferences for authenticity, transparency and responsible ingredient sourcing.

Part 1 of this article discussed some of the opportunities and challenges millennials are confronted with as food producers. Part 2 will address the role of millennials as food consumers.

Retailors are actively targeting the millennials to cater to their desires and tendencies. Millennials want brands to court them with personalized communications. Food industry is no exception. Millennials are reshaping and transforming the food industry, demanding more choices and options. They have experienced first-hand the baby boomer generation’s struggles with diet-related health problems such as obesity and other chronic issues. Millennials tend to be 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.

Although the vast majority of public still shop by price, the situation in the food industry may be changing. Surveys have revealed health-conscious millennials are no longer willing to spend their food dollars on processed foods. Instead, they prefer fresh food with quality and integrity. They desire and perhaps even demand for food to be produced sustainably.

Producers should take advantage of millennial’s desire to forge this direct connection with the food they consume as a marketing tool. This scenario provides innovative farmers the opportunity to share their unique stories about how, when and where the food was produced. Once the message resonates, the millennials are willing to put their money behind those products.

With farm-to-table theme in full gear, millennials are increasingly patronizing farmers markets and restaurants that source local goods and services. They are seeking out artisan breads from local bakeries, seasonal jellies and jams from nearby producers and microbreweries that use locally grown barley and hops. The quality of life envisioned by millennials is interwoven with the unique and delicate flavors they find in their culinary delights. Restaurants are increasingly providing diverse menu items to accommodate needs of the local and health food enthusiastic, vegan and gluten-free customers.

Michigan State University Extension has a critical role in educating consumers regarding common but serious misconceptions. United States farmers have provided the safest and most affordable food supply in the world for generations. They have achieved this by being good stewards of their land and water resources rather than being polluters as some special interests would like to portray. We have a collective responsibility to safeguard our farmers and the industry from false claims and fake news that are circulated to differentiate supermarket produce and mislead consumers.

Millennial famers and consumers in this transparency generation are in a unique position to process information and build consensus among stakeholders. Most experts feel their impact on the food system will be very positive and timely.


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