As a member of Generation X, I used to get upset about all the attention the younger millennial generation gets when it comes to food marketing. But the more I read the research, the more clear it becomes: millennials offer so much more growth.

The Packer’s Fresh Trends 2018 shows many examples of this.

Subscribers to The Packer should have received this year’s Fresh Trends annual consumer survey about a month ago, and in the Editor’s Note, I noted the significant produce purchase gap between the youngest consumers and other age groups when it comes to many produce department staples.

We asked 1,000 consumers who are primary shoppers what produce items they buy each year. Look at some of the age gaps in some of the most popular fruits and vegetables in the 2018 Fresh Trends.

  • Bananas: age 18-39, 64% bought in the past year; 40-49, 81%; 50-58, 82%; 59+, 82%.
  • Onions: 18-39, 56%; 40-49, 76%; 50-58, 70%; 59+, 81%.
  • Potatoes: 18-39, 58%; 40-49, 74%; 50-58, 79%; 59+, 81%.
  • Sweet potatoes: 18-39, 29%; 40-49, 44%; 50-58, 45%; 59+, 53%.
  • Tomatoes: 18-39, 54%; 40-49, 75%; 50-58, 77%; 59+, 79%.

The ages don’t quite match up, but it’s close. The millennial generation is generally considered age 20-35, and our youngest Fresh Trends age group is 18-39. And Gen X is age 36-53.

Why such a big gap?

This is one of the questions we’ll address at the Fresh Trends Quiz Show Retail Edition education session May 11 at The Packer’s annual West Coast Produce Expo in Palm Springs, Calif.

Produce Retailer Editor Pamela Riemenschneider will host the interactive session, and we have panelists Paul Kneeland, senior director of produce and floral for Gelson’s Markets in Encino, Calif., and Caitlin Tierney, director of produce at 99 Cents Only, to talk about retail and consumer trends.

Kneeland said he’s seen millennial shoppers in his stores buying fewer fruits and vegetables than other generations. For instance, he said bananas have become less popular.

“It could be the gyms and diets,” he said. “I hear trainers saying to stay away from bananas.”

There aren’t many items that this youngest group buys more of than the others, but there are a handful where they’re close to more than one age group.

As we might expect, some are the trendier items:

  • Artichokes: 18-39, 10%; 40-49, 7%; 50-58, 12%; 59+, 9%.
  • Avocados: 18-39, 35%; 40-49, 44%; 50-58, 47%; 59+, 37%.
  • Kale: 18-39, 18%; 40-49, 17%; 50-58, 21%; 59+, 19%.
  • Mangoes: 18-39, 22%; 40-49, 31%; 50-58, 25%; 59+, 16%.
  • Papayas: 18-39, 10%; 40-49, 9%; 50-58, 8%; 59+, 6%.

The question will be whether millennials will buy more staples as they mature, or whether the trendy will move more into staple territory with this age group.

Greg Johnson is The Packer’s editor. E-mail him at [email protected].

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