How has being a millennial consumer shaped your grocery shopping experience?
Abby: Food is something I spend a lot of time thinking about. I love to eat, I love to cook, and at the same time I feel like being a consumer today means wading through a swamp of ethical conundrums. I read Eating Animals in college (yes, hi, basic white girl here) and became a vegetarian on the spot because I felt like there was no way to ethically participate in the meat industry. I think progress has been made, but that still holds true for me today. My husband eats meat, though, so it does end up in our house from time to time — when it does, I try to be very selective about where it comes from and will only buy (and will gladly pay more for) the most humane animal products I can find.
Historically, I have done most of my grocery shopping at Whole Foods, not because I’m rich (lol), but because their brand image had me convinced that they shared my environmental/ethical/nutritional concerns when it came to food. I wouldn’t necessarily categorize myself as a health nut, but I do make an effort to buy organic, local products, and to avoid heavily processed foods unless I feel they meet certain standards (case in point: I regularly buy Annie’s mac and cheese, but I would never touch Kraft — and yes I know Annie’s is owned by General Mills, don’t @ me).
Anyway, whether it was true or not, I totally bought into the idea that Whole Foods was doing a lot of the legwork for me in terms of vetting the companies whose products they sold, and making sure those companies were adhering to certain practices — i.e., that livestock was being raised humanely, that produce was GMO- and pesticide-free, and that while the pseudo thin mint cookies I bought tasted just like the real thing, they were made without high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavoring, and other nasty ingredients.
Since Amazon got involved, though, I — along with a significant portion of Whole Foods customers, I imagine — have been less confident about that. Now, I’m planning to become a member at the Mississippi Market Co-op that’s right around the corner from my house, which is an option that appeals to me for precisely the same reason Whole Foods used to.
Allison: One of the most dramatic ways being a millennial consumer has shaped my grocery shopping experience is the lengths I’ll go to get the international ingredients called for in my “go-to” dishes. I cook a lot of Asian cuisine (ramen, pho, sushi, etc.) which requires different ingredients than those found in my local Cub. I had two options: go to multiple stores to source the ingredients I needed, or go to a specialty store and pay a premium (…or eat $1 Top Ramen, but that didn’t seem like an option at that time.)
Generally, I’d choose the latter and overpay for the convenience of one-stop shopping — that may be another #millennialmove — it’s only been within the past couple years that things have changed. Now I can finally find bok choy at my suburban grocer, which makes sense. As millennials buy houses and move to the ’burbs, we bring with us our appreciation of, and demand for, access to international flavors.
Colin: I’m really concerned about the future of our planet, so I’m always thinking through the consequences of how I spend my money. Is it going to a company that is actively trying to make the world better? Are their practices sustainable? And if possible, are they local? It’s tough to think through all the steps it takes to produce an item, so part of that is up to the company to communicate it and for them to be trustworthy.
It’s not enough to just make a product now; companies need to think about their place in the world and whether what they’re doing is a positive or negative. If I can clearly tell it’s bad for the world, there’s not a chance they’re getting my money. It’s probably the most power I have. Also, because I grew up hearing about pesticides and other chemicals causing health problems, I’m more committed to making sure that what I put into my body is free of that kind of stuff — even if it means paying a bit more for it.
This post is part of our Perspectives series, in which the Macleod & Co. team discusses industry trends, best practices, and how to apply strategic thinking to business decisions (and sometimes topics that aren’t strictly marketing related, because we have other interests and we like talking to each other!)