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Making connections with young adults: ‘A new area for most European food companies’

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 18-Sep-2012

Young adults in Europe are communicating with food brands in new ways – and expect an emotional connection through multiple online and offline media, according to director of innovation and insight at Mintel, David Jago.

Jago said that a bulge around the 18-30 age range is emerging in the European market, with awareness growing among food manufacturers that this is generally a well-educated and well-connected demographic that requires a different marketing approach.

“People are now a bit more aware of that segment of the population,” he said. “…It is much more about social media and internet connection.”

The market research organisation has just this year started to track mentions of social media, including Facebook and Twitter, on food and beverage packaging. So far, it has found about 500 new products launched in the European Union that mention one or more of these social media brands on-pack. While this might sound like a lot, Jago warns that it is important to put this figure in the context of the “thousands and thousands” of new products introduced across the EU each year.

“But it’s certainly something that’s growing,” he said. “…That seems to be the buzz at the moment. You might think it’s a bit of a fad, but I don’t think it’s going to go away.”

Making connections

Younger adults are looking for something to connect with in a brand, meaning that brand history, and the story around a brand, such as the origin of ingredients and how they are grown or manufactured, has become more important for creating an emotional connection with younger consumers – something that brand owners did not talk about much in earlier generations.

“It’s a new area for most European food companies,” Jago said.

Where are people getting their information about brands?

Online communication is a risky area for food companies, he added, far removed from the non-interactive places like shops and television advertising where consumers used to look for information about a new food brand in the 80s or 90s.

“Now they are much more likely to look at Facebook or Twitter, and are much more likely to connect with others about it and look at peer reviews,” he said. “…If you get bad press, it can effectively kill a brand. Food manufacturers realise it is a really big problem….Companies need to control it.”

Experimental and experiential

Although a lot of the conversation around younger consumers is about new media and different communication channels, the 18-30 age group is also bringing new tastes to the fore.

It is also a very broad, diverse segment, which encompasses individuals at very different parts of their lives, from students, to those becoming homeowners and parents, but there are some general trends emerging.

“They are more experimental generally, and more experiential,” Jago said. “…This generation is far more likely to try ethnic foods and new flavours, and odd flavour combinations.”

LifeStages 2012 online conference

FoodNavigator, in conjunction with sister publication NutraIngredients, is hosting an online conference on October 2 focussing on marketing to consumers at different life stages, from infants to baby boomers.

Click here to find out more and to register.