The Millennial Generation’s Hunger for Organic Food by Samantha Jakuboski, May 20 2015, 0 Comments
Every Sunday for the past nine months while away at college, I would cross Broadway and walk to the farmers’ market set up in front of Columbia University’s main gates, where the smell of fresh lavender and baked bread filled the air. Ever since I was young, my father would take me to farmers’ markets to buy groceries, so I was thrilled that even in college, I still have easy access to locally grown, organic produce.
Strolling down the street each week, it was obvious that I was not the only student pleased by the presence of the farmers’ market. Students made up the majority of customers who purchased fruits, vegetables, flowers, and baked goods. This shouldn’t seem as a shock, since the market was, after all, set up right in front of a university. But I wondered whether these students were just purchasing the foods out of convenience or because they were genuinely concerned with the food they put into their bodies.
After doing some research, it seems as if the latter is true. According to a 2014 Gallup Poll, Millennials are more likely to eat organic foods than are older Americans. They are interested in where their food comes from, what chemicals are in or on them, and are willing to go out of their way to eat organic. With this said, the farmers’ market location outside a major university was a very ingenious business strategy (whether it was conscious or not), on the part of the sellers, for they were able to target a group of people who value their services and are the most likely to buy their products.
Although farmers’ markets are wonderful ways for customers to interact with the farms and growers directly, the Organic Trade Association estimates that they only account for about 7% of all organic produce sales. Instead, over 90% of the sales come from supermarkets, and with over 20,000 natural food stores and three out of four standard grocery stores nationwide selling organic food, competition for organic food retail, which was non-existent just a few decades ago, is growing. Therefore, to stay in the game, many of the big food corporations are taking notice and are implementing strategic business design changes to expand their customer base and include younger age groups. Chains such as Walmart and Target are incorporating organic produce sections in their stores, offering organic goods at cheap prices, and with easy, online shopping Web sites, such as AmazonFresh, buying organic food can be done with the click of a mouse. Similarly, earlier this month Whole Foods Market announced its plans to create a new sister chain designed specifically to gain the support and business of millennials by offering “high-quality fresh food at great prices.” Although the word “organic" was not explicitly used in the statement, it is very likely that organic products will be included as part of the high-quality food promised, given Whole Foods’ current dedication to providing such goods.
Due in part to the Millennials’ increased emphasis on organic food, and the subsequent advances made by food companies, it is becoming easier than ever to buy organic food without breaking the bank. Such advances are beneficial to everybody (not just Millennials), for a healthy lifestyle is a right-- not a privilege. As the Millennials become the largest living generation in the country this year and continue to shape our food industry, I am curious to see what our food markets will look like in fifty years. Perhaps, (fingers crossed!) organic food will become the norm in our society, but one can only hope.
Samantha is a freshman at Barnard College, Columbia University. She is very interested in environmental science and hopes that through blogging, she can help change the way people view their actions in relation to the Earth and environment and live more eco-friendly lives. Samantha also maintains an environmental science blog on Scitable, Green Science.