Millennials - Americans born between 1979-1989 - are one of the largest demographics in the country and will soon be entering a strong growth period in both income and consumer packaged goods (CPG) spending.

However, these young Americans are not a typical consumer group and taking advantage of this emerging $54.3 billion opportunity presents significant challenges, suggestsInformation Resources Inc. (IRI). The Chicago market tracker says its latest research, “Winning with Millennial Women Shoppers,” closely examines this complex group, highlights key Millennial-driven U.S. growth markets, and provides deep insights into which channels and categories are well positioned to benefit from future shifts, where the risks are and what action to take today.

“Future CPG spending growth from Millenials, driven by women shoppers, will be a major source of new sales growth for retailers and manufacturers, who are continuing to compete in a volatile economic environment,” says KK Davey, executive vice president, IRI Consulting & Innovation. “This consumer group is even larger and more diverse than Generation X, and they are on the brink of experiencing a broad range of lifestyle changes, such as first home purchases, marriage, parenthood, career development and larger incomes.”

Population and migration patterns
Millennials will impact the U.S. economy during the next decade in four key ways, which are overall population, age, where they live and will live, and what they buy and will buy.

“Contrary to popular belief, it is Millennials, not Baby Boomers, who will dominate U.S. domestic migration in the decade ahead,” says Sean Seitzinger, senior vice president, IRI Consulting & Innovation. “In fact, a household led by a person in their 20s is eight times more likely to move to another region of the country than a Boomer in their 60s.

"During the next five-to-eight years, many Millennials are expected to migrate to ‘hot spots’ in the Southeast, Southwest and the Rockies," he says. "These moderately-sized cities feature strong opportunities for entry-level jobs, affordable housing, and favorable weather, which are all factors that are highly valued by Millennials.”

Retail channel and category insights
What are the shopping patterns of today’s 46.8 million U.S. Millennials? When compared with older shopper groups, Millennial households shop less often, spend more per trip, and do a greater share of their CPG spending at supercenters and Walmart. Under budget constraints due to the economy, Millennials have pulled back spending in many indulgent and convenience food categories, including frozen poultry, chewing gum, salty snacks and frozen pizza.

Millennial non-food spending is similar to Generation X households. At a category level, hair care, suntan products and household cleaner cloths are among several categories that have potential for strong growth, since consumption in many non-food categories peak for shoppers in their 40s when their household size peaks.

Today, 70 percent of Millennials agree that store brands are typically of excellent quality. Surprisingly, Millennials attitudes and actual purchases of private label brands is roughly on par with older shoppers, which refutes the conventional wisdom that private label acceptance takes a long time to evolve for a given consumer.

This private label acceptance also illustrates that branded manufacturers are routinely falling short in their efforts to build their brands with Millennials through traditional media, such as TV, radio and print. These traditional approaches are not nearly as influential or as effective for Millennials as it was with previous generations. Manufacturers will need to explore other non-traditional methods to reach this group.

Health and wellness dynamics
IRI says its research found that -- compared with women in their 30s and 40s -- Millennial women report an even stronger need for retailers to serve as better partners to support healthier diets and lifestyles. Weight-related issues dominate their concerns, with nearly half of Millennial women thinking the may not have a healthy weight.

Millennial women are motivated to “shop for health,” but they believe that finding healthier foods at retail is a challenge. They agree that a variety of healthy food products exist in stores but think that retailers can still do more in terms of in-store merchandising and messaging designed to navigate shoppers to healthier options.

Across meals-focused categories, Millennials are looking for healthier options in bread, cereal, vegetables and cheese categories. Granola/cereal bars, yogurt and cracker options top the better-for-you snacking category, while indulgences, such as candy, cookies and ice cream, are less of a concern. Less emphasis is placed on finding healthy options in beverages.

Loyalty and shopper satisfaction
Compared with other segments, Millennial women spend less time and effort planning their shopping trips and make less use of ad circulars and coupons. IRI also uncovered that most women are still making impulse purchases and only a small number have a set grocery budget.

When selecting their primary grocery store, Millennials place high importance on the store’s value proposition, location, user-friendly layout and variety. Less importance is placed on checkout service and frequent shopper cards. They are also less concerned with perimeter departments, such as fresh produce and fresh meat, which tend to become more important factors as shoppers age.