Millennials | How brands can appeal to fastest growing consumers

It’s official – millennials are now the fastest growing spenders on groceries shopping, according to new Nielsen data.

Contrary to the popular perception of the hipster subsisting on a diet of street-food, millennials are powering the growth of grocery retailers across the UK. As a function of our convenience-based lifestyles, millennials find that they are tending to shop more frequently than other generations, relying on the increased number of localised stores, e.g. Tesco Metro – regularly dropping in to top-up their supplies in addition to the weekly shop.

Few millennials invest in what they perceive as luxury items, such as cars, to transport our shopping, so are unable to commit to one-off grocery purchases on the same scale as older generations. Likewise, as online shopping can prove too expensive for a lot of millennials and as a group, their emphasis on socialising precludes them from making as many long-term plans.

However, if millennials do decide to shop online, they make use of all the information at their fingertips. Detailed product information, positive and numerous reviews, price comparison functionality (57% will makes comparisons before buying) and convenient shipping methods are now more likely indicators of where millennials will spend than the presence of a particular brand.

Millennials’ prioritisation of value for money over brand loyalty is also largely responsible for the rapid growth of low-priced retailers like Aldi and Lidl.

Quoting Nielsen’s findings: “millennial spend at Aldi has increased by 46% year-on-year – compared to 19% total increase. The trend is matched at Lidl, where millennial spend rose by 28% – nearly twice the rate across all shoppers (15%).” Asda and other discount heavy stores are also forging strong relationships with millennials, who are bringing them to the forefront of the market. Own-brand discounted ranges play their own role in this too, with 70% of 18-34 year olds tending to disagree with the statement, “when I shop, I always try to buy branded products,” (source: Ipsos MORI Global Trends 2014).

As part of a generation largely burdened with debt, I find this hardly surprising.

However, ever the champions of choice, the millennial grocery spend can’t be so easily pigeon-holed. M&S Food are seeing a great response from the 18-25s, who are willing to spend more to take advantage of the diverse product range.

If M&S can sustain this as millennials enter their prime spending years, I predict they can look forward to positive growth for years to come.

Another retail sector millennials are willing to splash out on is on health and wellness – for them these are part of a lifestyle, rather than functional needs to be maintained. Fitness gurus, beauty bloggers and nutritionists are among their aspirational icons, with some YouTube channel creators now finding mainstream stardom as brand ambassadors. Honey highlighted this in our own work with Eylure – supporting them as they transferred their focus from high status celebrities like Katy Perry, to online royalty like Fleur De Force.

We can also vouch that food brands that invest in healthy eating convenience ranges can now rely on this generation for engaged consumption. Honey’s re-brand of Weight Watchers’ ready meals, for example, resulted in a 34% sales increase across Asda stores, compared to 6% overall.

A lot of millennial active drive for healthy products stems from their desire to buy products with integrity, that reflect their values.

A strong brand ‘story’ can entice millennials away from the trappings of convenience as long as that ‘story’ has enough substance and authenticity. A stunning visual identity and even an impressive ad campaign is no longer enough to create real loyalty.

While this can be generally said of products, the same is not necessarily true of services. Millennials prize the connectivity of the shared economy, preferring to outsource the burden of ownership to others. For example, as mentioned above, millennials are unlikely to invest in a car, but we regularly use apps like Uber and ZipCar. They don’t buy music or DVDs, but they love Spotify and Netflix. A Rowe study in 2015 found that 80% of millennial consumers believe that renting a luxury product (e.g. Bag Borrow Or Steal) would benefit them as much as owning one.

As a generation hooked on self-reflection and improvement, millennials also want to see brands that have status, or advocate the lifestyles they aspire to and live by. They like their brands to have a conscience and to reflect their deeply held personal values – as evidenced by a study from last year, which found that 89% of millennials surveyed stated that they would be more loyal to brands who stand for something they believe in.

Sustainability, for example, might be more important to millennials than even convenience. Commitment to social responsibility ties in with the millennial advocacy of shared ownership, forming a community bond between consumer and brand. Honey certainly found this in our work on socially conscious energy brand, Ebico, promoting the values and culture of the business.

However, in a survey carried out by A.T. Kearney, only 21% preferred products to be socially responsible, versus 32% preferring the product to be manufactured sustainably and 47% preferring it to be ‘inherently sustainable’.

My interpretation of this would be that millennials would rather be assisted to live sustainable lives, over the integrity of products themselves.


A bit introspective of them, perhaps, but a rich area for companies to develop in order to market to millennials. Most businesses push their social responsibility in order to attract a younger client base – just look at the slam-poetry style jingoism of the recent Nationwide television ads – but it seems that brands could benefit more from offering millennials more agency within services.

The long or the short of it is – millennials appreciate anyone who can support them on their quest for self-improvement. And they’re willing to pay for it.