Millennials: they're the consumers of the future, a generation of 80 million that, as it moves through society, is changing all the rules perhaps especially the way products are marketed. Recent research helps the beef industry learn what makes them tick.
The Millennial generation (those born between 1980 and 2000) is a research priority for the beef industry. Millennials are the consumers of tomorrow. But they already account for about a fourth of the U.S. population and about a third of all adults so they represent a big chunk of the current consumer population.
The checkoff continues to engage in consumer research studies to identify trends affecting beef acceptance and preference and ultimately identify ways the checkoff can respond to help increase consumer interest in and purchases of beef. So why Millennials? A checkoff-funded study in late 2011 revealed that this generation really enjoys beef, but they also have some beef issues, many of which relate to consumer education.
Millennials in general know very little about shopping for and cooking beef which is a primary deterrent to purchasing it. They acknowledge beef benefits, like building muscle and helping maintain energy but lack nutritional facts to understand how beef, especially in terms of an appropriate number of servings, fits in a healthy diet and active lifestyle.
The 2011 study met Millennials where they are found most often on social media sites. Using Facebook, researchers developed a panel of Millennials who shared videos and diaries about their beef experiences in restaurants, at home and in grocery stores to provide depth and texture to the findings. Additionally, there was a quantitative survey of 2,000 Millennials to provide statistically sound measures and make the findings more representative of this group. Among the findings:
Millennials see food as an adventure, a route to diverse cultural and social experiences. They want beef to be part of these experiences.
However, 54 percent say it's hard to know what cuts to choose in the meat case. Millennials are also far less adept than any other generation when it comes to cooking beef.
56 percent of Millennials report disappointment in the results of a beef meal they've prepared, compared to only 31 percent of Boomers. Millennials reported problems preparing steaks and even burgers.
On a positive note, Millennials are knowledge seekers. 75 percent want information about steaks and how to prepare and cook them and 55 percent want information on preparing and serving beef to their children.
Millennials tend to buy the same cuts rather than diversify their choices. However, 50 percent said they would buy more beef if they knew more about the different cuts.
Given this knowledge gap, consumer education will be an important tool in marketing to Millennials. Many are very open to learning. For example, 24 percent of Millennials say they would seek information, such as brochures and recipes, recipes, at the meat counter, compared to 7 percent of Boomers.
Millennials eat out often 38 percent report going to a restaurant in the past month (compared to 28% for boomers) and choose from a wide range of operations, from fast food to high-end steak houses.
The 2011 study provided many insights but one in particular stood out: Millennial parents are limiting their children's consumption of beef. This is a critical finding, as Millennials are not only the key beef consumers of the future, they are the influencers of the following generation. In 2012, a checkoff-funded Millennial Parent study dug deeper into why this generation limits beef in their children's diets. Among those findings:
Chicken is perceived to be easier to prepare, a big favorite with children and widely available as strips and nuggets, so parents know there is always a kid-friendly option, whether eating at home or away from home.
Millennial parents also perceive other meats as more heart-healthy than red meat.
Older Millennials (age 25-32) are cautious about preparing family beef meals and 46 percent say they do not find beef convenient to cook for kids.
However, these findings offer opportunity, not just challenge. The 2012 study confirms that Millennial parents want to make the best food choices for their families and are willing to learn. Getting the news out about healthy beef benefits and convenience is critical in fully convincing this generation to feel comfortable and confident in choosing beef. Checkoff Millennial research so far offers both positive news and important details for future strategic marketing efforts. In particular, special attention should be focused on Millennial parents, who tend to be more concerned about the healthfulness of beef than those without children. Children raised on less beef are likely to be less beef focused in their own dietary choices later in life. Excerpted from a Winter 2012 Beef Issues Quarterly article by Neuman and the 2012 Millennial Parents Study Executive Summary, written by Rick McCarty and Wendy Neuman. For more information about your beef checkoff investment, visit www.MyBeefCheckoff.com.