How and Y Millennials are changing packaging

The first digitally native generation likes to cook, spend, has a unique sense of self, an optimistic outlook on life, an untraditional approach to life stages and relies heavily on digital technology. So what does this mean for brands and their packaging? Quite a lot, it seems, because as with any target market, understanding how to reach the Millennials — previously known as Generation Y — is key to them buying your products.

So how do brands get into the hearts and minds of the “click ‘n go kids”? Here are some clues. (And one of them is food.)

According to McCrindle Research, this group born between 1980 and 1994 (making them 23-37 years old) has a list of nicknames, many focused on the fact the digital age heralded their birth. Others look at their more untraditional life approach, such as “kippers” (“kids in parents pockets eroding retirement savings”), or “freeters” in Japan, because so many work part-time. Indeed, says McCrindle’s head Mark McCrindle, never before has a generation been so slow to enter full-time employment.

Last year, Tetra Pak released a report titled “Packaging up Millennial Success”. And the results of what makes “Google generation” tick? Well, it has a lot to do with food. Nearly 58% said they cook for fun at least once a week. That’s more than any other generation, and, one wonders, is because the other generations need to cook to feed their families — whether it’s fun or not…?

Armed with this knowledge, there is a huge opportunity for brands to use their packaging to engage this powerful generation and build lasting relationships. (Designing your packaging is so important in every way: this whitepaper talks through how packaging improvements help optimise your supply chain — it’s free to download.)

Here are six guidelines:


  1. Going digital

Millennials are the first generation to grow up with the internet and digital technology, so they are truly “digital natives”. According to AdAge, Millennials spending an average of 25 hours a week online. More than any other generation, they rely on their mobiles and tablets to research and buy items.

Forward-looking brands are innovating with smart labels to engage consumers and deliver an extended brand experience. Think exclusive videos, ads, reviews and recipes delivered straight to their mobile while they’re in-store. At the same time, interactive packaging can provide useful insights into customer behaviour.


  1. Convenience

Convenience is a huge factor for this generation. When it comes to sustenance, Millennials have a strong “must have it now” mentality; they look for food and drink options that fit into their super-busy lives. In fact, 41% are prepared to pay more for products that make their lives easier. As a priority, brands should focus on packaging that:

  • makes it easy for people to consume straight from the packaging,
  • packages items in convenient portions, and
  • provides a resealable option — especially for larger portions.
  1. Push boundaries

Millennials like to experiment with food and beverages. They are drawn to new and different ingredients, flavours and methods (nitro coffee anyone?), so creating packaging that focuses on innovation can be key to engaging Millennials and giving them a sense of discovery and exclusivity. Think limited edition collections and designs that stand out from the shelf. The 2016 Dieline Packaging Design Awards winners offer plenty of inspiration.


  1. Feed them authentic information

Perhaps because they have also been called “the cynical generation”, Millennials trust what they feel is authentic. They want to feel informed and involved, not just “marketed to”. They scour websites, social media and blogs for the information they crave, whether that’s finding out the origin of the product or a detailed breakdown of the ingredients. Packaging needs to be open and honest with information. Clear labelling is a must, as is easy-to-understand language free from jargon and marketing speak. (See this article on labelling trends for some interesting information on clean, social good and smart labelling.)

It also pays to look for ways to deliver educational content over and above the packaging label. Think unique content delivered digitally direct to their mobile device. For example, exciting recipes for an ingredient they have just bought. (There are some great ways this can be done via QR codes, see here how to crack using QR codes for promotion, why they’re a code every manufacturer should know and where they fit into that powerful, but very simple method of serialisation. If you’re wondering about their strength in connecting the manufacturer directly to the end consumer, see this article on why CDI uses them on infant formula tins to China and this case study on how.)


  1. Personalise the packaging

Nutella and Coca-Cola have had some great success with their personalised packaging in engaging Millennials. “The celebrity generation” wants to feel as if products have been created with their interests and needs in mind — not their back pockets. They are interested in having a say and becoming co-creators of the products they use, with 42% saying they are interested in helping companies develop future products and services. So open the door to collaboration, and let them become part of the product and packaging development process.


  1. Visibly sustainable

Eco-friendly packaging is a great way to boost your brand in the eyes of the Millennial consumer. They are not only actively seeking eco-conscious products; they are willing to pay for them. By using visibly sustainable packaging, you’re making it easier for them to choose your product. (You may find the “how can you go green with packaging” part interesting in this ultimate checklist to optimising your packaging & supply chain, and see how top French champagne maker Veuve Clicquot went green with its packaging – to great success.)


The 3 keys


While it can seem like there’s a lot at stake, targeting your packaging to Millennials doesn’t have to be hard. Only by not understanding them and not finding ways to be relevant to them or engaging of them, will brands fail. Remember these three key strategies:


  1. Make it authentic, honest and true.
  2. Provide the information they seek.
  3. Deliver the ultimate in convenience.


Check out Matthews’ great resource library. It has a host of great information that’s all free to download!


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