The New Majority: Millennials Drive Snacking Trends

April 13, 2015

Millennials are moving in and Baby Boomers are moving out. In 2015, Millennials—ages 19 to 36—will be the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, the new majority. Online workplace Elance-oDesk & Gen Y consulting firm Millennial Branding found that Millennials' advantages in the workforce over prior generations include the ability to adapt, come up with fresh ideas and keep up to date on emerging technology. But that's not all.

They are also driving snacking trends both in and out of the office. Research shows that Millennials are driving the trend toward more frequent and healthier snacking. They are more likely to seek out food products fortified with calcium, fiber as well as vitamins and minerals. Their tastes include everything from yogurt to fresh fruit to nutrition bars. Millennials are also most likely to snack in-between meals or use snacks as meal replacements altogether.

The result of healthier and increased snacking by the largest generation in the workforce gives vending and micro market operators the opportunity to drive repeat business back to the break room throughout the day.

Offer desirable snacks
Culinary Visions, a food-focused insight and trend forecasting practice, found that Millennial consumers do not care as much about defining an eating experience as a meal or snack as they do about satisfying their need to eat what they want, when and where they choose to eat it. The firm also found that more Millennials consume two to four snacks per day.

Operators can cater to Millennials' changing snacking trends by including products that are innovative, convenient and healthy into their planogram.

The Culinary Visions Panel also reported that 42 percent of Millennials said healthfulness is "very important" when making a snack-purchasing decision. Meanwhile the NPD Group reported that from 2003 to 2013, consumption of fresh foods—fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish and eggs—grew by 20 percent to over 100 billion eatings. Generation Z and Millennials were the force driving that trend.

While Baby Boomers' favorite midmorning daypart snack is a baked item, Millennials' preferred snack is yogurt, followed closely by granola/energy bars. Offering bundled health-minded products such as granola bars and yogurt could also help operators increase overall sales at checkout.

Vending and micro markets are desirable because of their convenience, so it's easy to incorporate snack foods that also reflect this convenience. Technomic found that when it comes to snacking, portability is increasingly vital; 60 percent of today's consumers, compared to 55 percent in 2012, cite portability as an important or extremely important factor when choosing a snack. Micro market and vending operators have a great opportunity to offer convenient products in to-go packages, especially as manufacturers continue to make these products more available.

Millennials like their food to be like them: unique. They are turning towards products that are innovative in terms of flavor, private label offerings and customization. In order to cater to this desire, operators can place customizable "like" products near one another in a micro market or vending machine (ex. Hummus and pita chips or carrots) or use promotions/loyalty features to let the user customize his or her purchase (purchase a 12 ounce beverage of any type, get a salted snack item of your choosing for a percentage off).

Don't forget top-sellers
Amidst the ongoing snacking trend changes, it's important that operators not lose focus of their top-selling products. Last year Automatic Merchandiser magazine reported projected sales of candy, snack and confections sales in vending totaled $5.6 billion, a more than 7 percent increase from the prior year. In fact, candy and snack sales have increased each year since 2010. Best-sellers are consistent and are oftentimes brands that Millennials grew up with. Operators should be sure they are offering old favorites for when the craving for a sugary snack comes along.

Not just snacking trends
It's not just snacking trends that Millennials will drive in the office. They will drive the demand for consumer engagement in break rooms as smartphones continue to mold their purchasing habits. It will be increasingly important for operators not only to offer the snacks Millennials want, but to offer the payment options and user experience which that consumer group is expecting.

Vending operators have the opportunity to increase traffic and sales in the break room by adjusting legacy product SKUs to those that are more customizable, innovative and portable, especially as this new majority in the workplace continues to grow.