Millennials, more than any other age group so far, pay closest attention to packaging content, especially ingredients. A 2019 study at the University of Valencia, Spain explored how food is marketed to millennials. Here are some of the findings of this unique study on millennials and their attraction to healthy food messages.
University Study Details
The University of Valencia study sampled 890 young consumers, in which 300 were early adults and 590 were adolescents. The study sought to better understand the associations between millennial lifestyles and perceptions in relation to food packaging cues. Two groups were observed: 1) early adult millennials who were born from 1982 to 1996 and 2) adolescent millennials who were born from 1997 to 2004.
What makes this study unique is that typical studies on millennial food involvement focus mostly on TV advertising. But millennials interact with products and brands in much more diverse ways, particularly online. They also interact with packaging in subtle ways, which is rarely studied. Trying to find high-quality current studies on millennial attitudes and behaviors toward food packaging is extremely difficult.
Relationship Between Sleep and Food
Although young people are often stereotyped as night owls, many millennials like to get sufficient sleep as part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Those who do tend to be more food involved, according to the study. Both sleep and food impact a person's energy levels in the daytime. People who lack proper sleep can feel fatigue and drowsiness on the job. Meanwhile, those who pay attention to good nutrition and the right amount of sleep tend to operate on a higher energy and alertness level.
More Research is Needed on Millennial Consumers
Not enough consumer studies on how the millennial demographic interacts with packaging have been done to confirm consumer buying behavior patterns. The fact that this area of consumer psychology has not been deeply explored opens the door for producers to do their own studies on millennial perceptions to gain a competitive edge.
A common generalization about the age group born from 1982 to 2004 is they are very conscious of nutrition, environmental issues and sustainability. So far no studies have shown that this age group links sports activities with food involvement. But the University of Valencia study drew some interesting conclusions how millennials have a higher awareness level of food packaging elements such as how efficient a package should be for transporting food in and out of a house.
Packaging Design Strategies
Consumer behavior research can be used to enhance packaging design. While there are still many unknown dimensions to how millennials respond to packaging cues, it's clear that certain values resonate strongly with this age group. They care about efficiency and waste reduction. Many millennials live the minimalist lifestyle out of both necessity and personal preference. A large segment of this group seeks learning about healthy lifestyle and nutritious foods.
The fact that a growing number of millennials are taking an interest in sustainable living methods should be a wake up call for companies trying to reach this market with traditonal packaging. While not all millennials think the same way, the ones with contemporary views mix in with a broader market of forward thinkers who seek to maximize efficency in their lives.
Millennials who lean toward minimalism prefer leaner packaging made of eco-friendly materials. As part of contributing to waste reduction, many consciously look for reuseable containers while shopping. Bottles, for example, can be easily repurposed, along with breadboxes and small containers.
Although millennials are a generation raised on visual entertainment, many individuals in this age group see through marketing hype. Early adult millennials have a closer relationship with packaging cues than the younger end of the age group, the study found. It further revealed that younger consumers engage more deeply with product information than older consumers. At the same time, there's a subset of millennials who live a wild lifestyle and don't think much about healthy ingredients.
Designers should keep in mind that words on packaging that convey confidence and security help attract attention for all demographics. Other important packaging factors to think about for resonating with a target market include overall package appearance, materials, colors, shapes and size.
Millennial consumers tend to be data-driven and they like reading information on food packaging. Designers can learn from research such as the Valencia study on how millennials perceive and respond to packaging. While there are various widespread stereotypes about all generations, certain packaging cues work better with millennials. The "less is more" concept is a popular value embraced by this age group.
 "Food packaging cues as vehicles of healthy information: Visions of millennials (early adults and adolescents (2019)", by Inés Küstera,, Natalia Vilaa, Francisco Sarabiab