A Hungry Millennial Walks Into a C-Store ...

Sure, millennials are 20-somethings who are always on the go, connected to social media and glued to their smartphones. But they are also professionals (blue- and white-collar), moms and dads, urban and rural, Caucasian and first-generation immigrants.

But to truly understand this consumer, you have to dig a little deeper.

Consider this: Depending on the source (in this case, it’s the U.S. Census Bureau), the oldest millennials today are 38 years old; the youngest are 25.

This massive generational group has a host of changing needs and preferences worth considering. They’re moving through different life stages. Many are now raising children and prioritizing family; they have shifting definitions about health; their value equations are changing as they age; and they may have higher expectations for food quality than their elders.

The great news for c-store foodservice is that millennials, from one end of the age spectrum to the other, are loyal guests. But in order to keep them coming through the door, here are a few things to keep in mind ...


Millennials want snacks

Eighty-four percent of millennial c-store consumers buy snacks at least once a month, according to recent Technomic data. Desserts, chicken strips, nuggets and wings are their snacks of choice. Another 23% of these consumers also want to see more smaller-portioned snacks. Figuring out a way to downsize desserts to bites and offering chicken products in snack portions could grab their attention.

Tell them a food story around freshness

Forget the age-old quality perceptions that have lingered about c-store food: Nearly seven out of 10 millennials believe c-stores can execute on freshness just as well as restaurants can. But that execution is key. York, Pa.-based Rutter’s Farm Stores went as far as to develop special packaging designed to keep fried foods fresh, hot and crispy. For other retailers, it could mean being transparent about preparation dates for prepackaged sandwiches or choosing breads that stand up well to refrigeration in order to preserve quality.

Don’t forget about families

Millennial parents want to be assured that a store is clean, welcoming and suitable for their children. And they want healthful, good-tasting food that they can grab for their kids in a hurry. Broomall, Pa.-based Swiss Farms addressed this need when it introduced a line of grab-and-go school lunches.