Half of US millennials leave their primary grocery store to buy specialty cheese and meats, while 41% do so for bakery items; 70% regularly buy fresh prepared foods, versus 51% of baby boomers: Hartman Group study

Cindy Allen

Cindy Allen

Jun 10, 2014 – Supermarket News

June 10, 2014 () – Many Millennial shoppers look for items in dairy, deli and bakery outside of their primary store, The Hartman Group CEO Laurie Demeritt said in a session at IDDBA’s Dairy-Deli-Bake 2014 in Denver last week. The session was titled “Key Shifts in Food Culture: How Consumer Preferences and Behaviors are Evolving and How to Respond.”

While their reasons for shopping elsewhere differ by category, Millennials often go looking for what they perceive are value, selection and variety, Demeritt said.

“For the most part, they’re going to other mainstream stores, but for certain categories such as cheese and bakery they’re also going to specialty stores. And so there’s really desire on the part of consumers to get something from the experts,” said Demeritt.

Millennials tend to leave their primary store to shop for specialty meats and cheeses at specialty stores.Half of Millennials leave their primary store to buy specialty cheese and specialty meats, while 41% do so for bakery.

Millennials are also more likely than Baby Boomers to regularly shop these perimeter categories. About two-thirds of Gen Y shop at least monthly for specialty meats, compared with 45% of Boomers, and 61% shop at least monthly for specialty cheese, vs. 39% of Boomers.

Seventy percent of Millennials regularly buy fresh prepared foods, compared to 51% of Boomers.

The two main reasons members of Gen Y shop the perimeter are to find fresh, healthy foods for immediate consumption and to discover higher-quality products.

“I don’t want to underemphasize how important it is, that sense of discovery and indulgence and unique items that they’re finding in fresh perimeter. That’s providing a really positive halo for the store,” said Demeritt.

Although Millennials like the convenience of grab-and-go grocery meals, they also want to be able to do some cooking to customize what they eat.

“And so they’re looking to retailers and manufacturers to sort of be the sous chef. Do the difficult stuff for them: make that sauce, do some of the chopping of the vegetables, maybe even have them be able to buy special cuts of meat that are pre-marinated. But then allow them to give it their own flair, because they like to sort of create it,” said Demeritt.

In the search for quality and selection, Millennials like to shop around. In the past three months, Gen Y consumers shopped an average of nine different stores, compared with the Boomer average of six stores. However, Millennials don’t see themselves as not brand loyal, Demeritt said.

“When we talk to Millennials, it’s not the way they think about it. What they really say to us is how there’s just this huge variety of choices, there’s a proliferation of places I can go to buy food, and I just want to explore and experiment with all of them,” said Demeritt.

Another shift for Gen Y is that they are often shopping just for themselves. Almost half of the time, adults are eating their meals alone, and for Millennials, “that’s the new normal,” said Demeritt.

While many Millennials eat alone even when they live with other people, single-person households are a growing — and often overlooked — demographic, Demeritt added.

“And this is a group that doesn’t feel like they have a lot of opportunities or options in the store right now. This is a prime household for your [fresh] categories. Because they don’t feel like center store is meeting their needs.”

In general, retailers need to get over the idea that the target consumer is a mom shopping for her family, Demeritt said. According to the 2010 U.S. census, less than one-third of American households include children under the age of 18, and only 22% of primary shoppers are moms with kids.

Demeritt’s presentation was based on a new IDDBA-commissioned study called “Engaging the Evolving Shopper: Serving the New American Appetite” that was conducted by The Hartman Group.

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