Communicating with Millennial Consumers Through Packaging

by Eric Stefan Kandelin Koons on April 10, 2021

Millennial consumers exhibit different buying patterns than other age groups. Before and through the pandemic the majority of millennials have more concern for improving society than getting rich. In order to reach an individual of this demographic and mindset, the packaging should reflect values of efficiency, eco-friendliness and public safety.

Applying Research on Millennials to Packaging

Two major studies on millennials give deep insights on what drives the ambitions of people born from 1983 to 1994 - the kids who grew up in the new century. Pew Research conducted a study of a few thousand adults including millennials in 2010 and Deloitte published a comprehensive survey of over 18,000 millennials in 2020.

Both large studies found that millennials view themselves as unique compared with earlier generations. So right away, the packaging designer should forget about generic templates and common visual stimuli. But it's also true that a majority of Gen Xers and Boomers feel the same way about their generation.

Different millennials have different reasons why they think their generation is different. About a quarter of millennials, according to the Pew study, said they're different because of the way they use technology. While respondents of both surveys leaned toward positive social views, 44 percent of millennials in the 2020 survey said they suffer from stress all or most of the time.

The pandemic has led many millennials to take an even deeper interest in social issues involving health and the environment. That means they will be paying even closer attention to labels for ingredients and health warnings. Since most millennials value sustainability as part of their global vision, marketers aiming for their dollars should put a heavy emphasis on sustainable packaging.

What Is Sustainable Packaging?

Sustainability encompasses the practices of self-sufficiency, economic efficiency, healthy conditions and conservation of natural resources. Streamlining the manufacturing and packaging processes to reduce waste and cut costs is also part of a sustainable business model. So anything a packaging designer can do to show the brand's concern for the planet is helpful at catching the attention of millennials.

One way to win the hearts of millennials is to use recycled materials for the packaging. Wood, cardboard, paper, plastic, glass and metals can all be recycled or refurbished to create new packaging over many cycles. An important quality of sustainability is durability as certain food containers can be saved by consumers and repurposed for storing other items.

Cellulose is a common renewable material that works well for green packaging. Other materials that meet the definition of green or sustainable packaging include starch-based biomaterial, organic fabrics, corrugated bubble wrap, mushroom-based packaging and other plant-based biomaterials.

You can connect with millennials if the product package somehow associates with cleaner air, land and water. The theme of minimalism is also big with millennials, as packages that convey "less is more" minimalism are more likely to get their attention than bulky packaging that's clearly much larger than the product.

Popular Millennial Foods

Some of the most popular foods among millennials in recent surveys include avocado toast, oats, a wide range of veggies and smoothie bowls. Some of the more unique choices include protein balls, cauliflower rice and gourmet donuts. Favourite beverage among millennials include flavored sparkling water,  kombucha and pumpkin spice latte.


The key to communicating with millennials through packaging is to avoid being generic and to maximize visual efficiency. Perhaps more than any other population segment, millennials read labels closely, as they like to reduce exposure to certain chemicals and seek natural alternatives. The most important themes for connecting with this market are nature, nutrition, minimalism and social responsibility.



[1] "Food packaging cues as vehicles of healthy information: Visions of millennials (early adults and adolescents (2019)", by Inés Küstera,, Natalia Vilaa, Francisco Sarabiab

Topics: Metal Packaging, Health, Millennials

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