Fall 2016
Epicurators By Sam Ujvary

How to cash in on millennial snacking

There’s no shortage of reasons your store shelves should contain some sort of gourmet food. The old adage, “the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach” has proven true over and over again.

Millennials, especially, are particularly ardent toward food; both food they purchase for themselves as well as what they are gifting others. Gourmet snack foods are becoming increasingly popular to give as gifts with more folks hosting friends and loved ones in recent years, and with the generation showing favor toward the story behind the items they purchase. But how do you know which specialty food items will sell? Certainly it must taste good; but with the sea of products swimming on shelves, how do you know what you should get that will do just the opposite and fly off those very shelves?

Snack Worthy

In 2015, with the help of Applied Research West, SnackWorthy — a brand under the Lehi Valley Trading Company — conducted a millennial research study to find out their purchasing patterns and behaviors. In an effort to build a brand tailored for what is forecasted to be America’s most powerful consumer bloc, 300 millennials were surveyed about their preferences for snack selection, as well as their reasoning.

Jacque Taylor, director of marketing for Lehi Valley, was able to shed some light on the results. “We know from the research we’ve done with millennials, that they’re looking for healthier options at a valued price,” she said. “Millennials tend to be the most cost-conscious, but they still want something a little bit healthier.”

According to its research, millennials are more focused on healthy eating and continue to shift more of their grocery spending to organic and natural foods. Authenticity, too, seems to be a key theme among these shoppers. They typically aim to purchase products from well-established companies in the community; those that give back; and also those that are authentic about what they do and what they say. Using this information, the company was able to develop a line of products that appealed on levels like ingredients, packaging and cost.

My Cup of Cake
My Cup of Cake

Millennial tastes

This summer’s Las Vegas Market showed an expansion in the specialty food sector of the gift industry. “Las Vegas Market has been steadily expanding the gourmet housewares presentation,” said Dorothy Belshaw, president of Gift & Home Décor, International Market Centers. The show understands the importance of gourmet in the gifting industry, specifically how being authentic and unique with a great backstory will sell. Some of the products found here greatly appeal to the millennial masses.

Hammond’s Candies has a best-selling candy bar, Pigs N’ Taters that features both bacon and potato chip in the same bar of chocolate. And as in just about any category, smaller, handcrafted companies are popping up everywhere with beaming success. Bond Bar, Cocktail & Sons and Mast Brother’s all showcased their niche products at the market. And they each have their own story that appeals to millennials. Cocktail & Sons was created by an award-winning bartender and spirit consultant who was looking to add something extra to various cocktail programs. The owner of Bond Bar has a mother who doubled as a candy mogul, running a booming candy company. While she was in Belgium — essentially the world’s chocolate capital — she began to develop her own combinations of velvety chocolate and childhood favorite confections.

Two meticulous brothers make up Mast Brothers, a company that’s been testing new flavor combinations for nearly 10 years.

Also at the show, a nonprofit retail seminar was held to help shop owners sift through challenges of and recognize opportunities for running a store. One topic heavily discussed here, was how to drive sales to millennials. Some shared highlights include:

  • They like to buy a lifestyle
  • They’re very sensory driven
  • They are experiential
  • They rely on word-of-mouth
  • They will spend money if you tap into their passion

So, what is their passion when it comes to specialty foods? Of a quick survey conducted by Gift Shop magazine, product ingredients and price are the most important factors determining selection, followed closely by packaging. Nearly 29 percent of the group said packaging draws their attention to a product, more so when it comes to gift-giving. One millennial said if it’s sponsored on sites such as Instagram and seems appealing, it will pique her interest in buying. This goes hand-in-hand with a statistic shared at the Las Vegas Market seminar that 59 percent of millennials share their product feedback on social media, and 93 percent say they read a review prior to making a purchasing decision.

Millennial purchasing decisions are very different. And they’re beginning to outpace even the baby boomer generation when it comes to spending, so taking notice will increase sales. With the ever-growing specialty food industry, keeping cost-conscious products on-hand that have positive reviews, are social media stars, and come in a pretty package are a guarantee sell to these digital natives.

Sam Ujvary

Sam is the managing editor of Gift Shop Magazine and assistant editor for its sister publications, Stationery Trends, Museums & More and Party & Paper Retailer. She has a copywriting background and has been in publishing for five years.

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