5 Ways Food and Nutrition Brands Can Reach Millennials

Why McDonald’s New McWrap Missed the Point

McDonald’s Millennial problem has been the talk of the town with the launch of its biggest product of the year, the McWrap. In an attempt to win over the Millennial generation, the McWrap, referred to as the “Subway buster,” is supposed to offer customization and variety, two highly coveted expectations of Millennials. The problem? Not only is the McWrap missing the essence of customization, this one product offering also fails to address some of the most important Millennial influences. If McDonald’s really cares about targeting Millennials, the company should start following the lead of some of their nutrition focused food brand adversaries.

Here are 5 ways successful food and nutrition brands are reaching millennials.

1.  What’s Your Story?

Millennials care about the story behind their food so much, we’re actually willing to pay more for a product whose story aligns with our values. How is the food made? What is in it? Chipotle is one food brand succeeding in this area. The moment you step into the restaurant the messaging clearly communicates where the ingredients come from, the health benefits provided and the sustainability efforts you help support as a customer.

To win over Millennials, food and nutrition brands need to tell their story and clearly define their brands passion and cause commitment. In fact, the Millennials Cause Study found when a cause message is linked to a brand in an authentic and relevant way, it is more likely to gain the attention and respect of young people today. A shared passion for a cause can foster a strong personal relationship between a brand and its target consumer.

The problem for McDonald’s? They’re missing the authentic story and cause that aligns with Millennials’ core values.

2.  Quality vs. Price

Millennials are more interested in what is in the food we’re buying rather than the brand name on the packaging. To convert Millennials into customers, brands need to focus on building messages around the notion of value and affordability. While Millennials are inherently looking for a good deal (we did experience one of the worst recessions), we are willing to splurge on attributes we value including convenience, freshness, health and variety. In fact, 58% of millennials surveyed said they are willing to pay more for all natural and organic products according to the study, Trouble in Aisle 5. While McDonald’s offers a great deal, it’s unhealthy reputation has me willing to pay a little bit more to eat somewhere with healthier options.

3.  Emphasize the Health Benefits

Clearly demonstrate why your product is a better, healthier option. Millennials are on a quest for products that help them live well for less. For instance, Whole Foods has Pinterest boards to clearly communicate healthy lifestyle choices such as “Eat Your Veggies,” “Greens on the Table” and “Healthy in 2013” (among other boards sharing the store’s sustainability efforts and causes).

Trader Joe’s is another grocery store with a unique and admirable appeal among millennials. By offering easy ideas for eating healthy while appealing to an array of nutrition preferences, Trader Joe’s is meeting a Millennial need. In fact, Trader Joe products contain no artificial colors, no flavors or preservatives, no MSG, no genetically modified ingredients or artificial trans fats and the product packaging clearly communicates this. It’s like music to the health conscious Millennials ears!

4.  Experience

Millennials crave an experience, particularly an “instagrammable” one. We don’t want to hear a brand market to us, we want to interact with a brand in a personal way. We want to experience a product first-hand and if we’re inspired enough, we’ll even share it with our social networks. Part of what we crave in an experience is the ability to customize, connect and try something new. From the rise of the food truck, to the all natural food movement, food has become a personal expression of one’s self and a symbol of life’s moments. Just open up one of your social networks, from Facebook to Instagram to Twitter to Pinterest, people are sharing photos of their food as much as their dogs or children. I don’t know about you, but I don’t find anything inspiring about a seemingly normal fast food chicken wrap from McDonald’s and if I’m not inspired, I’m not instagramming it.

5.  Honesty’s the Best Policy

Millennials have grown up during an obesity epidemic and among a convoluted debate of what causes a poor diet and what consists of a healthy lifestyle. The result? Millennials have increasingly become interested in what exactly is in our food. How unhealthy is it, really? Is it hormone free or farm raised? Healthy or not, we want to know so we can make a conscious decision. Unfortunately, Millennials don’t feel that brands disclose enough information about their food products. It took a new law mandate from the President for fast food restaurants to display the nutrition values openly on their menu. Now it’s obvious why McDonald’s would be adverse to this in the first place, but this is the type of transparency Millennials crave.

That’s a Wrap

Despite the growing obesity epidemic in the United States, many Millennials are taking steps to get fit and stay healthy.  At 80 million strong, by 2017 the Millennial generation will have more spending power than any other generation; and some say we could be the group to catapult the natural food industry into the next generation. If other food chains offer options more in line with Millennial values and harness our taste buds now, I think it’s going to be hard for McDonald’s to catch up (even despite our current lack of brand loyalty). If McDonald’s wants to grasp the Millennial customer, the company should take some lessons from their nutrition food brand adversaries.

What other tips would you offer food and nutrition brands targeting Millennials? What brands have inspired you with their nutritious food options? Please share any thoughts you have in the comments! 

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