Editor's Plate: Fight the Millennials!

Feb. 23, 2015
Or at least infiltrate their ranks with some intel from the Food Leaders Summit in April.

This article orginally appeared in the February 2015 issue of Food Processing magazine.
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I’m a little teary-eyed to be making this admission. It appears I’ll be stepping down, along with 75 million others, as the largest generation the U.S. has ever seen.

Pew Research Center released a report in January that those pesky millennials will surpass us baby boomers in numbers some time this year. Those born 1981-1997 number about 75 million. With a few untimely deaths, baby boomers (born 1946-1964) soon will slip under 75 million.

So much marketing and consumer research, much of it in the food and beverage industry, has focused on us for decades. Tom Brokaw was just being modest when he called our parents “The Greatest Generation.” OK, living through the Great Depression and two world wars is reasonably impressive, but what ultimately did they produce? The leisure suit?

We gave the world the personal computer, the Internet, the microwavable pouch!

Besides baby boomer mortality, the darn millennial numbers are growing. How, you ask? An influx of immigrants. It seems we mature people are less likely to relocate, while youngsters from around the world are still flocking to the U.S. of A.

With one eye on retirement, more of my money is going into my 401(k) and health savings account than on new cars or consumer electronics. The food I buy now is pretty much the same stuff I bought decades ago. No new R&D is needed to reach me. Just keep the Oreo the same.

There are two ways to deal with this. One is to fight back aging with fortification. As our story on reports, antioxidants, micronutrients, fatty acids, some botanicals and other nutraceuticals can stave off cognitive decline. Maybe they’ll help us live longer, too.

Where was I going with this?

Oh yeah, two ways. The other way is to infiltrate. Have you given some serious thought on marketing to these creatures? Maybe you need to get out of the office for a few days and do a deep dive on that. We have just the thing.

Millennials will be a recurring subject at our Food Leaders Summit April 27-29 in Chicago. “Channel Dynamics and Millennial Disruption in Mainstream Grocery” is the title of one session. “Product Development for the Critical Consumer” – I doubt they’re talking about me. Two more are “Navigating Consumer Desires in the Era of Too Much Information” and “2018: What’s on Trend in the Food Landscape?” We even have the director of millennial engagement at Monsanto Co. (he’s, like, 32!).

The Food Leaders Summit is designed for executives and managers, product developers and marketers at all food and beverage companies who want to grow in the years ahead. Limited to 250 attendees, it will be big enough for some critical mass on important issues, but small enough to allow for networking and interaction. See more information and register at

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