Millennials, Millennials, Millennials


Photo (CC2.0) by Elizabeth Hahn, on Flickr

Today’s blog post was written by Annette Dunlap ( Her position is the Food Business Specialist/Agribusiness Development for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services.

The millennial segment of the  U.S. population is of great interest to small business owners. Although she writes for the food entrepreneur, much of what she says is just a valid for any small business owner. I hope you enjoy.

Millennials. Millennials. Millennials.

Nearly every e-newsletter I’ve received this past week has had at least one article about the impact of Millennials on the food market. With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at their buying power and their impact on the food business.

First up: Let’s define what a Millennial is. Based on Pew Research, a Millennial is someone who was born between 1981 and 1997. So, the youngest Millennial turns 19 this year and the oldest turns 35.

Next: How big a group is Millennials in NC? According to the US Census Bureau’s 2014 estimate, Millennials make up 26.7% of the state’s population (for the United States it is just over 25%). This compare with 21% for Boomers, the second largest cohort. But, in terms of buying power, Millennials spend more money because they are in their household formation years, whereas Boomers are reducing their expenditures as they scale down.

These two pieces of information help understand why all retailers, including food purveyors, are responding to Millennial trends.

We’ve discussed those trends in previous Friday Food for Thought comments, but given the renewed attention in recent weeks, they are worth another look.

Trend: Millennials are trading restaurants for ‘grocerants.’ – This trend isn’t exclusive to Millennials, but we are seeing them increase their purchases of prepared foods at supermarkets and reduce their visits to restaurants. What does it mean for you as a food business?

  • Shrinking footprint in the shelf stable section of the store as supermarkets increase prepared food offerings.
  • Increased demand for complementary condiments.
  • Greater need for complementary products to be positioned where the prepared foods are purchased, such as when mustard and pickles are near the deli counter instead of in the traditional section of the store.

More detail here.

Trend: Millennials are creating their own food culture. While the base of Millennials’ food preferences was formed at their parents’ dining table, they have grown into a cohort for whom idea sharing and information gathering are routine and instantaneous with a smart phone. The more sophisticated Millennials are the trendsetters who often blog and go to trendy restaurants. But as a larger group, there is a strong emphasis on global flavors, health and wellness, and clean labels. Many of you are already moving into this space with your use of natural ingredients and the absence of preservatives in your recipes. You are definitely “fashion forward” with Millennials. The key is to continue to remind them of the appeal of your products. More info here.

Trend: More Millennial dads in the store. A whopping 80% of Millennial dads claim to have primary or shared grocery shopping responsibilities. Having children changes their buyer behavior – somewhat. They will buy healthier foods, but they are also more likely to make the alcohol and related snack food purchases. Have you responded to the change in your consumer? At least one report says that dads aren’t motivated by couponing and are less price sensitive. But quality is a big deal to them. How do you promote your product? Would your promotional messages appeal to a male shopper? May be time to step back and take a look at your messaging. Get some ideas here.

In case you missed it – The latest edition of the Got to Be NC newsletter can be found here:

Innovations, Opportunities and Small Business

Innovation is a key element for the successful small-business owner.

When many want-to-be owners read that statement, however, it often makes them think that their idea for a product or service must be something new, something different.

Yet the reality is that many successful businesses don’t sell anything new or different, they just have taken a different approach in how they sell or where they sell or some other business process. Maybe it’s just a new approach to customer service or taking advantage of a new technology.

The “new” can be something big but it’s often easier to find a little tweak that gives you just as much advantage as a business owner.

The challenge is finding the innovation. This video, “What is Innovation,” might help you see that more dots do exist. As it notes, fire was once a dot as was the wheel.

So as you think about what small business you might start, think about dots. Where are the holes that you can fill?


Enjoy Success with Your Small Farm

mama-and-baby-goatThe number of small farms continues to grow in the United States. While many of these represent noncommercial operations, the interest in local foods, natural and organic also represent a big driver of this movement.

Small farm operators, as noted by Mary Peabody, University of Vermont Extension, are an “enthusiastic, passionate, ambitious lot.” Farming is demanding, requiring commitment of mind and body to be successful.

The UVM Extension New Farmer Project is one effort to help coordinate resources and services for this segment of the economy. In addition to providing tips for a successful startup,  you can find information on farm labor, marketing, pricing, and quality of life.

Many other states along with USDA and nonprofits are also supporting the small farm industry. Some of these resources can be found here.

As a small farmer, you do not need to feel that you are going it alone. Check out the resources and also build your network.

Good luck.

Take Control of Time Spent Doing Your Small Business Online Marketing

Online Marketing

Online Marketing Options

Developing an online presence is a necessity.

However, you hesitate because: you hear it takes a lot of time or you are not comfortable with technology or you know your customers won’t use it or they all know about your business already. Perhaps it a combination of these items and more. So why have an an online presence?

Yet if you are reading this, you are using that same technology. And if you look around, you will see mobile technology all over being used.

Let’s not hide the fact though that the time needed for a large online presence can be substantial. This article clearly points out that fact. Yes, it really does talk about 12 to 104 hours per week just for doing search engine optimization of your web site. Such time is not even available in your wildest dreams. Perhaps if you didn’t want to sleep…… And we haven’t even talked about your social media efforts yet!!

But are you at that level?  If so, then go for it.  If not, keep reading.

So what can be done to build an online presence and yet control the amount of resources it takes? 

These are my thoughts on the steps you might take. Others may disagree but this will get you started.

First, learn about the online world and the technology. Understand its place in a marketing effort. Then find a way to dip your toe in the water. Let me suggest the following steps:

  1. Learn about the online world and be ready to commit some resources. Take some classes about what this online world is at your Extension office, library, school, college, etc. Any time you are out, look at the people around you, they are probably online with a mobile device (and you may well be reading this on your mobile device). And ask how much you can carve out to commit to developing an online presence.
  2. Online starts off-line so talk with your customers. What are they doing online and how are they getting online? What would they like to see from your online presence? At the same time, see what your competitors are doing as well as other businesses in your community.
  3. Claim your bubble. You know, that little pin that shows where a business is located. Get listed in at Google business and other similar services. Correct inaccurate information. Google is the current big player but don’t overlook other sites such as Bing and Mapquest.
  4. Check out the review sites where your business might be listed.  Set up a plan for reviewing those sites on a regular basis. I would encourage at least a weekly review and a response to any negative reviews. A thanks to positive reviewers would also be a good idea. Now might be the time to consider how you can get more reviews. (15 minutes per week)
  5. Set up Google Alerts or some other means of getting an update, such as Twitter lists,  Feedly or Hootsuite, to know when your name or the name of your business is mentioned online. You may also want to follow your key products, trends, or key industry informants (15 – 45 minutes per week)
  6. It’s now time to take the next big step in your online presence. My recommendation is to build a website. The reason for that method versus something like a Facebook page is you control it. Social media sites are owned and controlled by others. If they decide to change, everything you worked for can disappear quickly. Your site can vary from something basic to very elaborate with shopping carts, etc. You can do it yourself or you can hire someone else to build it. Taking this and step 7 may require more help and training. This is also where your required time commitment will start to grow.
  7. Another big step – Now it’s time to add social media perhaps including a blog.

You have covered the basics (Steps 1 through 5, and have moved on with items #6 and #7. The first five steps require a reasonable (dare I say small) ongoing time commitment, maybe as little as 15 minutes per week although I hope that you are getting lots of positive reviews that take time to read. Just a reminder, though, there is upfront time being spent to get ready.

At this point, you can look at social media advertising, search engine optimization, getting ready for mobile, and tracking your metrics.

The bottom line is you can begin an online presence without spending the hours suggested by that first article. And you can do much of the work yourself, even with the long days your business takes.

Additional information: