August 15, 2019

Captivate And Educate The Millennial and Gen Z Generations

 |  By: Jane Hillstrom

Ask ten people what sustainability means, and you will receive ten different answers. Complicating it further, the answer differs with each generation. Millennials make up the largest, most diverse adult generation in the U.S. Even though the stereotypes of “everyone gets a ribbon” and “addicted to their phones” are often associated with this powerful generation, their tastes and preferences support creating a sustainable society for everyone. How can we argue with that? It is important to talk their language when sharing dairy’s dedication to sustainability.

Not only are Millennials early adopters of technology, they are a generation that loves to travel and is obsessed with food and beverages. Kombucha, craft cocktails and microbrews, anyone? 

Millennials’ definition of sustainability encompasses more than food. It’s tied to equal pay, climate action, world peace, eliminating poverty, clean water, zero hunger and more. A big task list for any generation. According to Steve Lerch, Founder of Story Arc, who spoke on Innovation and Food Trends at the Dairy Experience Forum, “vegan, vegetarian and sustainability are here to stay.” 

What can dairy farmers say to Millennials to demonstrate their commitment to responsible production, nourishing communities and continuous improvement? Dairy farmers can talk their language.

Millennials are early adopters. Talk about innovation on the farm such as genetics, feed science, energy efficiency, GPS tractor guidance, soil sampling, water recycling and how digesters produce energy. 

They want climate action. Over the last 30 years, the U.S. dairy cow has produced more milk with less land and less water. Today, dairy cows use 90% less cropland and 65% less water, producing 76% less manure and 63% less carbon emissions while producing more milk. 

They strive towards zero hunger. Dairy nourishes America. An eight-ounce glass of dairy milk provides eight times more naturally occurring protein than the same size serving of almond milk. And, from 2016 to 2018, close to 750 million pounds of dairy were distributed in the Feeding America network thanks to the dairy community.

Keep in mind, there is a difference in what Millennials say and what they do. Most Millennials are worried about the environment, yet they aren’t as green-minded as they seem. About a quarter of Millennials say recycling is too time consuming because they find it confusing and do not know exactly what does and does not get recycled.

Regardless of your opinion on these generations, dairy cannot negate their buying power. Millennials and Gen Z (less than 24 years of age) want the brands they buy to stand for something. According to Jeff Fromm, Millennial Marketing, who also spoke at the Dairy Experience, Gen Z demands brand action even more than communication. 

For example, the product has to be good for the environment and invest their profit back on behalf of the consumer. Think Toms shoes or Bombas socks (buy one pair, they donate one pair). Dairy farmers can tell stories of building strong bones while providing green space for wildlife, conserving resources and donating dairy to families in need.

Millennials aren’t about business as usual. And, neither are dairy farmers. Talking about sustainability dictates future sales of dairy foods. Connecting climate action, innovation and zero hunger with dairy farming and dairy foods connects to future consumers. It demonstrates your authenticity with a purpose.