If you’re a grower, manufacturer or retail grocer, you shouldn’t be thinking about me. I’m a baby boomer. Yes, I can spend a lot of money (just ask my wife), but my buying habits are outdated and, if you continue to solely gear your business towards my generation, you’re going to have problems – and very soon at that.
As of 2016, the millennials surpassed the baby boomers and they are now the largest demographic buying group in the USA with over 75 million members. Millennials have a very different approach to the way they eat, research and shop for food. According to a recent article in Forbes, “millennials will only interact with brands that are open and transparent, stand for more than their bottom line, and address environmental and socioeconomic issues in the community.” In other words, millennials not only want, but expect true transparency from the brands they interact with. If you can’t deliver on that, they’ll look elsewhere.
And millennials know where to go to get information. According to research from Label Insights, 76% of shoppers go online to seek out information when they don’t find what they’re looking for on a product’s label. Additionally, 56% of millennials use their smartphone to look up product information while in the store. Why? Because they’re interested in what they eat, they want more information than ever before and they value transparency. Label Insights’ research indicates that “nearly all consumers – 94% – are likely to be loyal to a brand that offers complete transparency. Transparency is ranked the highest in a list of factors that motivate consumers to be loyal to a brand. And once a consumer has switched to a brand in favor of increased transparency, he or she is more likely to remain loyal long term.” Consumers will even pay more for products that offer complete transparency and information about the products you sell.
But how can you provide them with product information if you don’t have it?
When it comes to perishable products, technology can help.
Because consumers expect foods like fresh produce and seafood year around, supply chains have become extended and increasingly complex. Growers, manufacturers and retailers can provide “true transparency” throughout the entire fresh food supply chain to establish the history of the product from harvest or manufacture to retailer to ensure authenticity, quality, food freshness and safety. Accomplishing this requires all members of the supply chain to have access to every link in the chain so that everyone involved – including consumers – can have complete visibility into where food came from, and if it has been handled and distributed correctly.
Using IoT sensors throughout the supply chain to track and monitor authenticity, proper processing and handling can help provide true transparency. There’s significant value in collecting origin and quality-focused data on its own, but analyzing, applying and making it broadly available is where the benefits accrue. As such, blockchain is rapidly emerging as an important enabling technology to utilize IoT data and make it completely transparent, delivering security and trust across the supply chain. But, blockchain should be viewed as a foundational technology and not a solution in-and-of itself.
The combination of blockchain and IoT data enables growers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers to collect and share data with consumers as well as improve decision making throughout the supply chain—thereby providing those millennial customers with the data they’re craving.
For example, IoT sensors can collect data about fresh produce from the time it is harvested. You can collect insights on the field, the conditions and the processing and handling steps from field to distribution center to retailer – including end-product freshness – and then provide that information to your customers. Similarly, you can track the authenticity and handling of fresh meats and seafood, even if it is coming from the other side of the globe, and make that information available.
Keith Knopf, president and COO at Raley’s, says that “consumers’ expectations related to transparency are only going to continue to rise. Brands that haven’t yet explored how to approach transparency can no longer ignore it.”
As millennials continue to become the dominant customer demographic, retailers are only selling themselves short if they don’t give the customers what they want—data.