Marketing to the Millennial Food Shopper

There’s been a lot of talk about Millennials lately, and with good reason. Millennials currently make up the country’s largest living generation, and by extension, the country’s largest consumer group with $200 billion in annual buying power. This has not gone unnoticed, especially among big name brands. These days it seems that everyone is changing their marketing strategy to appeal to the Millennial consumer – a few months ago, we talked about TGIFridays removing the appetizer choice limits on their Endless Appetizer deal. Now, within the last month, we’ve heard about changes even more companies are making specifically focused on winning over Millennials.

First, marketers noticed the trend that Millennials have been moving away from beer, and choosing wine and spirits as their drink of choice. Frantically, beer companies have tried other tactics in order to win back the Millennial consumer with Anheuser-Busch releasing a spoof on classic cocktails including Bud Light Mixxtails and Bud Light Ritas. So far the canned cocktails have been a hit among Millennials, but only time will tell whether or not Millennials continue this trend or move on to drinking actual cocktails.

Then came the news that Target would be shifting its shelf marketing towards products that Millennials are more likely to buy. Consumers in general are starting to become more health-conscious and focused on buying natural or organic products. So in hopes of appealing to the “urban Millennial” Target is shifting the focus on their processed shelf staples to other items like Greek yogurt and granola. While this doesn’t mean that canned soup and boxed cereal will be completely removed from shelves, Target will be placing the spotlight on these products that today’s Millennial is more likely to buy.

However, the most surprising news was that Whole Foods (or as it’s more commonly called, Whole Paycheck) plans on launching a chain of lower-cost stores geared towards Millennials. While Whole Foods rose in popularity due to its early entrance into the organic grocery store scene, today healthy products can be found at almost any grocery store and at a much cheaper price. So while the demand for natural and organic products has increased, Millennials are still cash-strapped and price-conscious shoppers. The high cost of food at Whole Foods stores has generally been a turn-off for Millennials, but Whole Foods is hoping to gain their market share while at the same time being careful to not break the brand they have built up of “premium prices and premium products.” The stores, which will feature “a modern streamlined design, innovative technology and a curated selection,” are expected to start opening next year. And if prices are actually as reasonable as they are expected to be, you can be sure that this Millennial will definitely be shopping there.

The issue of Millennials being a younger generation and generally being less wealthy than the Boomer Generation is one that should be of particular interest to marketers. Affordability might just be the key to winning over the Millennial food shopper. Not every company can afford to just up and make a whole new chain of stores dedicated to winning over Millennials, however that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to lower the cost of food shopping. In our recent study on Millennials + Food & Nutrition, we briefly discussed how Millennials use a variety of sources for discounts and how over 90% of Millennial shopper use coupons (see clip below). This is something that not only applies to grocery stores, but also restaurants and product companies who also have the ability to control coupon deals. So, while Millennials do keep an eye out on the quality and freshness of goods they are buying, they are also aware of the limits placed on their food budget, and it’s up to marketers to find that balanced sweet spot.

For more information on our Millennials & Nutrition study, get in touch with us below.

Whole Foods is Betting on the Conscious Consumers’ Values

Now that more mainstream grocery stores and big box retailers like Walmart and Target have expanded their organic offering, Whole Foods has pumped money into a new brand campaign to remind people that they stand for more than organics, homeopathics and new age thinking. And because consumers now have more access to lower cost organic food, Whole Foods has much work to do to overcome the perception of being an overpriced, exclusive, luxe grocery store to the wealthy (perhaps you’ve heard the store referred to by the tongue-in-cheek moniker Whole Wallet). In some cases, they will have to justify why their prices are higher for certain items. This is where the campaign’s focus on corporate values comes in.

Whole Foods is placing a hefty bet on the Conscious Consumer trend. According to a study by the Hartman Group, Gen X (the often overlooked middle child of generation-focused marketing) holds much purchase power when it comes to grocery shopping, and have strong opinions about the food they buy. And let’s not forget that most coveted group of consumers, Millennials – who in 2013 represented 20% of US spending. According to a 2013 Boston Consulting Group study, up to 10% of Millennials are Clean-and-Green Millennials who make purchases because they are cause-driven or environmentally-minded. But the largest classification of Millennials – 29% – are Hip-ennials who “…seriously believe one can have a positive impact on the world.” Our own study about Sustainability and generational opinion revealed that Millennials felt personally responsibility for driving environmental changes, while also believing  in sharing responsibility with others. They also want to have their voices/opinions heard in terms of influencing companies’ Sustainability efforts.

If Whole Foods can capture the minds, hearts and wallets of these consumers, the investment on this latest brand campaign will be money well spent.

For more information on our Sustainability study, click here.

On Your Mark. Get Set. Shop!

It seems like everyone, almost everywhere kicked this holiday season into high gear over the weekend. My social news feed was splattered with trees, lights, decorations and even a few pictures of kids with that ole jolly fellow.

Meanwhile, my inbox has been filled with messages alerting me to all the best deals taking place from now through Black Friday and into Cyber Monday.

Last year, we saw a slight increase by 2.3% when combining Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales at brick-and-mortar stores for a total of $12.3 billion. However, Cyber Monday sales increased by 18% from 2012 to 2013, making it the biggest online spending day in history with total sales reaching $1.735 billion.

Since we carved out our little corner of the internet many years ago, and because we work with many retailers and CPG companies, this definitely got our attention. Every year, more and more people are shopping online. This year, we’ve already seen an increase in the amount of retailers extending the discounts beyond Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Deals are now being offered early and often. With this in mind, we decided to take a look at what consumers were planning and plotting this time around for the biggest shopping event of the year. Our most recent study explores where, what, when and how much they’ll spend. Check out our latest infographic below.

2014.11 BuzzBack Infographic_Holiday Shopping

Interested in more information? Just email us.

Millennials + Sustainability

These days, it seems like everyone’s jumped onto the ‘going green’ bandwagon. Fast fashion retailer H&M is offering its customers a coupon for 15% off their next purchase every time they bring in a bag of used clothing to any store. In Sweden, McDonald’s launched a campaign in which you receive a free burger or cheeseburger for every 10 empty beer cans you bring in; 40 cans gets you a Big Mac. In further promotion of the campaign, McDonald’s has even installed billboards that double as trash bags for those walking by to easily pull off and fill with all their cans. What do these campaigns and earth-friendly initiatives have in common? They’re all aimed at Millennials.

Having recently become the largest generation group in the country, Millennials are the ones shopping at fast fashion stores and they used to be McDonald’s key customer base, until recently. This month, McDonald’s reported their biggest decline since 2003 and also found that diners between the ages of 19 to 21 have gone down by 12.9% since the start of 2011. The fast food chain has admitted that its latest campaign was an attempt to reach out to the Millennial generation, specifically the young music festival attendees in Sweden.

But, the question remains: are these efforts to appeal to the Millennial generation through green initiatives working? Millennials may say that they place a high value on issues such as social responsibility and sustainability, but are they actually following through on that? Or maybe it’s the campaigns that need to change – are companies able to effectively communicate their green initiatives to their Millennial consumers? When it comes to these topics, what are their perceptions? When it comes down to making a purchase, do they really care about companies being committed to sustainability?

We will be exploring several of these questions in our upcoming webinar in which we do a deep dive comparing Millennial, Boomer and Gen X perceptions on the word Sustainability. If your brand is tackling the challenge of increasing the connection consumers have with sustainability, check out our latest webinar.

Sneak Peek: What’s in Your Backpack for Back-to-School?

Back-to-school sales are everywhere and it’s got me reminiscing for the days when I was a student. Back in 1994, I was just starting to maneuver my way through high school as a Freshman. Now, 20 years later I have a daughter who’s starting Pre-K at a new elementary school. In just 3 weeks time! We haven’t received any supplies checklists as of yet, but I know I should pick a few things up. But, what to get? After performing a quick search for ‘back-to-school’, I came across an appropriate article that highlights the differences in prices from 20 years ago to today. Backpacks, lunch boxes, notebooks. Some of the price differences are staggering. So far I’ve only purchased a lunch box and it cost $32, which is a few price points above the average listed in the article. Here’s a few highlights:

With all the back-to-school hoopla happening all over the country, we decided to take a look at how consumers were spending during retail’s second largest spending event of the year. We found that consumers on average will spend $336.17 and that consumers in the Northeast and Southern parts of the U.S. spend more than their counterparts in the West and Midwest. Stay tuned for our full infographic in which we’ll look at where consumers shop, what brands they look for and how they prefer to hear about Back-to-School promotions. For more information on our Back-to-School study and infographic, email us.



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Home Improvement Sneak Peek – What Inspires You To Renovate or Redecorate?

I think it’s safe to say that the home improvement category has received a huge boost in part thanks to the internet, but especially Pinterest these days. According to Unmetric, a company that analyzes data for the content marketing efforts of brands via social channels, the ‘Home’ category raked in 2 million repins and topped the list of Categories With The Most Repins. The 2013 report looked at 5,000 branded Pinterest pages from the beginning of Pinterest until March 14, 2013.

So yes, it is safe to say that the internet has inspired many home improvement fans, but is it the top dog when it comes to inspirational content? We recently conducted a Home Improvement BuzzPoll because we were curious to find out how people renovate, redecorate and remodel their homes and we actually found that television is still the king of home improvement content according to 200 U.S. home owners, ages 18 and up. In fact, a recent press release by Scripps Networks Interactive, parent company to HGTVDIY NetworkFood NetworkCooking ChannelTravel Channel and Great American Country, complemented our findings. For the second time in a row, “HGTV was the #1 cable network on weekends among all women, including upscale W25-54. As it did in first quarter 2014, HGTV attracted an average of 14 million viewers every Saturday and Sunday between 7A-8P. Top rated weekend programs among W25-54 during second quarter were Property Brothers with a .77, Flip or Flop with a .71 and Fixer Upper with a .70. HGTV also posted its best ever June primetime rating with a .52 among P25-54 and continued to perform strongly with female audiences in primetime, garnering a .70 rating among W25-54.”  In a separate press release they also found that their DIY Network beat their previous top performance records and continue to attract audiences for a second consecutive quarter.

Other items of interest in our study include when consumers plan projects and how far in advance they begin planning. See below for a sneak peek as to what else you will find in our upcoming home improvement infographic and stay tuned for more results.

home improvement sneak peek


Emotional Associations For The Emerging Conscious Consumer

Have you heard of Made To Matter? It’s an exclusive line of products that Target started placing in their end caps and throughout their regular aisles this spring. There are 17 brands participating in the program. Half of them will be introducing line extensions and the other half are new products. The brands participating in the program include: Annie’s Homegrown, Burt’s Bees, Chobani, Clif Bar & Company, Ella’s Kitchen, EVOL, Horizon Organic, Hyland’s, Kashi, Method, Plum Organics, Seventh Generation, SheaMoisture, Target’s Simply Balanced, Vita Coco, Yes To and Zarbee’s Naturals.

Target’s website states, “Now more than ever, Target guests are on the lookout for natural, organic and sustainable products that are better for them and their families.” At BuzzBack, we couldn’t agree more. For the past few years we’ve chosen different marketing terms to better understand consumers’ associations across the globe. Our three most recent terms have been Natural, Healthy and Sustainability.

Our findings show that brand messaging shouldn’t rely soley on fuctional product benefits and that companies who play in the global market need to understand the different nuances across cultures. In our Healthy study we suggest that linking functional benefits to the emotional associations of a healthy lifestyle can more deeply connect with consumers.

For example, an area that we found interesting was how respondents associate Healthy across age/life stages, from babies, children, teens, young adults to mature adults. Moving from the youngest to the oldest age groups, US, UK, and German responders revealed a gradual shift from nurturing/emotional associations to nutrition, wellness, and being physically healthy. When looking at associations for the same stages among Brazilians however, the focus is on nutrition and emotional connections for the younger groups, and then later shifting to a combination of nutrition, education (or work) and fitness in later life stages.

In Germany and Russia, the focus is on emotional connections for the younger age groups and shifts to associations with nutrition, fitness, and balance for the older age groups (young/mature adults). For China we see strong associations with physical health throughout all age stages, with emphasis on physical strength and fitness being more evident for the later stages in life.

To request a copy of the findings from Natural, Healthy and/or Sustainability, click here.


Gluten-Free Trend: Fading Fast or Built to Last?

In our sneak peek back in February, we asked: is going against the grain an enduring health trend, or will another development in health and nutrition soon take its place? According to our study this food fad is here to stay. And a trip through the grocery store confirms that it’s not going to slow down any time soon.

Since the FDA released their official definition for gluten-free back in August, the gluten free category  has grown exponentially – taking up more and more shelf space in grocery stores, and recently expanding into the restaurant industry. In fact, both Chick-fil-A and Olive Garden recently announced they have changed up their recipes in hopes of catering to the growing ranks of grain-free diners. And supply chain cooperative, SpenDifference recently released findings from their Chain Restaurant Menu Price Tracking Survey that found 55% of the chains surveyed said they currently serve gluten-free food, with 52% planning to add to their gluten-free menu and 7% planning to start.*

Who are these gluten-free consumers and what makes them tick? To learn more, we recently conducted our own gluten-free study that included 100 gluten-free purchasers to find out the why, what, and where behind these consumers. According to our findings, restaurants that are extending their menus to include gluten-free food and beverage options – such as Starbucks, Panera, and Applebee’s – are moving in the right direction, as 8 in 10 agree that eating gluten-free is harder when eating out, yet only 1/3 of these gluten-free purchasers know of a restaurant, bakery, and/or café that offers gluten-free items. To see what else we found, take a look at our gluten-free infographic below.

2014.04 BuzzBack Gluten-Free Infographic




Have an idea for a BuzzPoll? Let us know! Or for more information about our Gluten-Free BuzzPoll, click here.

 * SpenDifference, Chain Restaurant Menu Price Tracking Survey, January 2014, pgs. 2,5 

Don’t Mention It!

I read about a couple of fashion companies that, even though sustainability is part of their brand ethos, they don’t use the actual “S” word in their communications.  These brands seem to be reacting to the active greenwashing going on in corporate marketing departments.  And to speak to the consumers whose values are aligned with the brands, the companies are turning to other words and phrases from the Earth-friendly lexicon to communicate the message:  mindful production; social commerce; conscious consumers; progressive; viable.

Has the “S” word just become white noise? Another bandwagon that is an overhyped but empty experience? Are consumers suffering from eco-fatigue?  Or have brands failed to educate consumers about why they should care and seek out companies committed to sustainable business practices? In the end, does mass consumerism trump mass-environmentalism? Are US consumers different than their counterparts in Europe? Latin America?

We will be sharing answers to a several of these questions in our upcoming webinar that showcases our most recent study (completed with the Rainforest Alliance). If your brand is tackling the challenge of increasing the connection consumers have with sustainability, join us by registering here with a click.


Gluten-Free: Consumer Perceptions Sneak Peek

In case you missed it, The New York Times ran a great article just last week that covered the great gluten-free craze taking companies, marketers and consumers by storm. What started out as a need-based diet for a small percentage of consumers who have Celiac Disease or are sensitive to gluten, has since catapulted into a category expected to generate over $15 billion in 2016. As consumer perceptions that a gluten-free diet is a healthy lifestyle choice continue to drive this category boom, there is no telling when this upsurge will slow down.

At BuzzBack, we were also interested in consumer perceptions surrounding a gluten-free diet. We will be unveiling new findings from our U.S. and U.K. gluten-free BuzzPoll soon, but we couldn’t let you leave without giving you a little taste. In our U.S. study, top gluten-free products ever purchased are breads, pastas, cereals, cookies & crackers and seasoned snack foods (i.e. chips).  Top unaided brands mentioned are Glutino and Udi’s – mentioned in the article as being purchased by Boulder Brands in 2011 and 2012 – and proving to be a smart business move, since “sales of Udi’s and Glutino were up 50 percent last year.”

So what do you think: is going against the grain a sustainable health trend, or will another development in health and nutrition soon take its place?

Have an idea for a BuzzPoll? Let us know!