Millennial Consumers Love These 3 Food Stocks

A pen notebook and calculator laying on top of sheets of paper Credit: Shutterstock photo

Millennials, or Generation Y, are simply defined as persons born in the 1980s and 1990s. Their economic impact, however, is not so simple. Millennials are turning out to be the core demographic for many different companies across many different industries. They are the ultimate trendsetter, and companies are frequently tweaking business ventures and advertising campaigns to appeal to this generation.

As a Millennial myself, I connect best with companies that promote values I like to live by. If a company promotes values like engagement, recognition, and high-quality, I will more likely give its services or products a try.

Now, let's talk about food.

Why, you may ask? Because who doesn't love eating? And if Millennials can eat at a restaurant or shop at a grocery store that represents their underlying values, then it's a win-win for both customer and corporation. More and more, the food industry is changing its business methods specifically for Millennials, and catering their products to fit their needs and wants.

Let's take a look at three companies who have found success with the Millennial generation.

Chipotle Mexican Grill CMG

Image via: Forbes

The groundbreaking success of fine-casual restaurant Chipotle comes from their consistent emphasis on a narrative built upon the ideas of freshness and integrity, making these two themes cornerstones of their marketing efforts.

The entire experience at Chipotle screams "FRESH!" You watch your Burrito or Burrito Bowl come to life right in front of you, and you witness the ingredients being prepared, getting chopped or grilled or mixed together. There are no questions about how your order is cooked, as Chipotle encourages customer engagement in every made-to-order meal; only a glass partition separates you from the staff member making your food.

Chipotle is also known for their "Food with Integrity" philosophy, an approach to business that highlights traits like unprocessed, seasonal, family-farmed, sustainable, nutritious, naturally raised, added hormone free, organic, and artisanal.

The company constructs memorable billboards with slogans like "Chicken from Farms, Not Big Pharm," "A Gourmet Burrito without Pretension," and "Pork from Farmers Not Factories."

The company has, however, fallen on difficult times. After an E. coli and norovirus outbreak was linked to many of its restaurants, Chipotle has been working hard to better its tainted reputation. They recently announced many food safety changes in response, and appointed a new "food safety czar" earlier this year. Chipotle recently premiered a new marketing campaign, which included giving away 5.3 million free burrito coupons. It was more than twice what the company had expected, and perhaps a telltale sign people are still very much in love with Chipotle's burritos.

Shake Shack SHAK

Image via: Shake Shack

Despite a flat market debut in January, burger chain Shake Shack has managed to accrue a dedicated fan base since launching as a lone hotdog stand back in 2001. Their motto-"Stand For Something Good"-has helped differentiate the company from established fast-food chains by offering fresh, premium, farmed-friendly, and high-quality ingredients to its customers.

Their presence on social media has made the fine-casual burger joint increasingly popular among the Millennial demographic. The company takes part in many different platforms, including Vine, Instagram, Facebook FB , Twitter TWTR , Pinterest, and Alphabet's GOOGL YouTube and Google Plus. Shake Shack may not have the largest following on these sites, but it has the biggest audience for its size with only 65 locations worldwide.

Even the look of the restaurant appeals more to Millennials than other casual dining establishments. Its design is edgy and modern, with a dark gray color palette and sleek tables and chairs decorating the interior space.

Similar to how Chipotle engages with its customers, Shake Shack recognizes its core audience by taking the time to understand them, and to speak with them in a native fashion, i.e. through re-tweets, shares, and replies on social media sites. By digitally connecting with their customers, Shake Shack is giving them a sense of agency not widely seen in customer-corporate relationships. A simple reply does, in fact, go a long way.

Whole Foods Market WFM

Image via: Whole Foods

Whole Foods Market is the country's largest chain of natural food supermarkets, and is known for their wide selection of natural, organic, and artisanal products.

Like Chipotle and Shake Shack, going to Whole Foods is about more than just buying food. It is a grocery shopping experience that provides customers a hip and eclectic vibe, including an indie music soundtrack and dreadlocked associates happy to help you with any question or concern.

This grocery chain in particular appeals to Millennials because they do two things: they engage with their customers and provide them with fresh and high-quality products, while also giving shoppers a sense of community and connection by promoting ideas of authenticity and inclusion.

Whole Foods has been able to create a unique sense of value, provide hard-to-find organic or all-natural products and labels, and form a humanized shopping experience for customers, all justifying its high prices. Grocery shopping has never been as trendy or as smart or as healthy as it is at Whole Foods.

Final Thoughts

More than ever before, food is fashionable. It is fashionable because the Millennial generation has decided it is fashionable. And we all know how financially influential Millennials are.

They are changing how the food industry manufactures products and how it interacts with its customers. Shoppers now care if their meat and vegetables are farmed in a friendly manner, and if their restaurant ingredients are fresh and organic.

Chipotle, Shake Shack, and Whole Foods are three companies reveling in the success the Millennial generation has brought them. They engage constantly with their customers through social media; they provide fresh, natural ingredients and products; and they appeal to Millennials through sincere advertising campaigns and wholesome company philosophies. These companies are approaching Millennials in the right way, understanding that they are a different consumer than past demographics.

Enough with the reading. Go and get that burrito or burger or expensive weighted salad you have been thinking about since the beginning of this article.

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Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report

CHIPOTLE MEXICN (CMG): Free Stock Analysis Report

SHAKE SHACK INC (SHAK): Free Stock Analysis Report

FACEBOOK INC-A (FB): Free Stock Analysis Report

WHOLE FOODS MKT (WFM): Free Stock Analysis Report

ALPHABET INC-A (GOOGL): Free Stock Analysis Report

TWITTER INC (TWTR): Free Stock Analysis Report

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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