Photograph from within a Whole Foods Market showing fresh produce on display.
Photo by Andy J. Scott

3 things millennials care about when shopping for food

A new national survey on food attitudes of people born between 1981 and 1996 illustrates concerns, preferences, and diets.
on September 09, 2019
Quality and transparent sourcing are just a few of the factors millennials value when they shop for groceries, according to a new survey commissioned by Whole Foods Market.

Whole Foods Market examined millennial food, health, and grocery shopping preferences with a survey conducted independently by YouGov. Sonya Gafsi Oblisk, Whole Foods Market’s CMO shares insights about the findings.

Q: Why did Whole Foods Market do this survey?

A: Many of our customers and team members are millennials - generally those born between 1981 and 1996 - and we know millennials are expected to outnumber Baby Boomers this year. We wanted to dive deeper into understanding their passions and what they care about when it comes to food.

Q: What did the survey reveal about millennials relationship with food?

A: Not surprisingly, they love to eat. Nearly 70 percent of those surveyed spent more money on food than travel in the last year. And they won’t settle for just any food in their grocery carts. They make food purchases intentionally and want to know the story behind how food is produced and grown.

Q: What three things do millennials care about most when grocery shopping?

  1. Quality

    An overwhelming majority – more than 80 percent – said food quality is a priority for them. Quality has always been a priority for Whole Foods Market, too. We’ve pioneered some of the top standards for quality in the grocery industry, and we’ve been doing it for more than 40 years. In every single one of our stores, we ban more than 100 preservatives, flavors, colors, and other ingredients commonly found in food – including high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners.

    What is even more compelling is that millennials are willing to stand behind their food values with their wallets. The survey found nearly 70 percent of millennials are willing to pay more for higher quality.
  2. Transparent sourcing

    We’re seeing the rise of transparent sourcing across all sectors, not just food. It’s no surprise that more than 65 percent of interviewees say transparency in food sourcing is important, particularly for buying meat and seafood. In fact, more than half of millennials are willing to pay more for products that have adopted animal welfare standards.
  3. Fresh, organic food

    Nearly 70 percent of millennials read labels more closely than they did five years ago. More than 60 percent are more concerned about additives and growth hormones. Ultimately, half of them buy more organic products than they did five years ago. They want real food.

Q: What role does health play in food shopping?

A. Eating healthy is a normal part of most millennial’s daily routines. More than 60 percent of interviewees try to eat healthy on a daily basis; a majority are adding additional unprocessed foods and plants into their diets.

This generation has access to more educational and nutritional awareness than previous generations, and we’re excited to support their health and wellness journey.

Q: What about trying diets?

A. Not surprisingly, millennials are experimenting with alternative eating approaches, and we see that demand in our stores. Whether it’s Keto, paleo, gluten-free, or something else, nearly half of this generation have tried a special diet in the past year.

In reality, new diets are hard to maintain. More than half of millennials say special diets are not always easy or convenient. We’re trying to make that easier, both in store and online. Our “exclusive brands team” is rapidly rolling out innovative products with alternative ingredients, such as non-dairy cheese slices and plant-based cauliflower flour.

Earlier this year, we launched a digital product catalog that allows shoppers to find items by dietary preference. The online catalog also provides complete nutritional information and ingredient lists.

Q: The environment seems to be top of mind. Was that true for food shopping?

A. Yes, the impact food has on the environment is a big factor in food shopping. More than 60 percent of interviewees admit they are aware of the implications their food choices have on the environment. About half of them seek food and beverages made of less packaging and plastic.

We are constantly looking for ways to help our planet. In 2008, we were the first national grocer to eliminate plastic bags. Earlier this summer, we eliminated plastic straws from all our stores—the first national grocer to make this change.

Learn more about the survey.

Methodology: The total unweighted sample size was 1,006 U.S. adults aged 22 - to 37-years-old who passed an occupation security screening. The online survey was conducted from August 5 to August 9, 2019. About half of the sample identified as parents.
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