Millennials are changing your business. The buying power of consumers born between 1977 and 2000 is increasing rapidly, and so is their influence on the marketplace. Millennials now make up 25% of the U.S. population and account for 21% of consumer discretionary purchases, estimated to be more than a trillion dollars.

Of significant importance to you is the fact nearly 50% of millennials say they would be more willing to make a purchase from a company if their purchase supports a cause. Think “animal welfare” or “environment.”

Across agriculture, leaders encourage farmers and ranchers to “tell their story.” If you don’t, they say, someone else will. That has never been more evident than in today’s beef market. Routinely, critics claim beef production is nothing short of an environmental catastrophe, requiring “massive amounts of land, food, energy and water, and causes immense animal suffering.”

Science says otherwise. Grain fed beef production, for instance, produces 40% to 60% less methane than grass fed beef. According to research by livestock sustainability consultant Jude Capper, grass-finished cattle require 226 more days to reach market weight, using 45% more land, 76% more water and producing 51% more manure than grain-finished beef. 

Such facts matter little, however, when beef and other foods are marketed with emotion, not science.

Critical information about consumer trends is revealed in the annual Power of Meat study, conducted for the Food Marketing Institute and the North American Meat Institute by 210 Analytics LLC. The 2017 Power of Meat study reveals store trips are down 2% year-over-year, and the younger the consumer, the fewer the trips to the store. The millennial generation takes only 96 trips per year to the store compared to 119 on average across all age groups. During 2016, the study also found dollars spent in the meat department were down 3.6% as the number of trips declined. 

The Power of Meat study confirms consumers “increasingly seek transparency into meat/poultry ingredients and production practices, fueling double-digit growth for organic, antibiotic/hormone-free, grass-fed and other special attributes. Shoppers report high interest in expanded assortment of all these items as well as claims relative to better treatment of the animal/environment.”

The photo above is an example of such animal welfare/environment claims that tug at consumer emotion. Prominent on the label is “Never Confined to Feed Lots,” which says nothing about the quality of the product and everything about the perceived treatment of the animal to the uninformed. 

Savvy retailers are quick to spot and capitalize on such growing trends. Emotion might have no flavor, but the “beef with a story” category will continue to grow. How that story is told to consumers will increasingly become your responsibility. 


Note: This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of Drovers.