Report Shares Why Younger Shoppers Have Less Food Brand Loyalty

If you were to take a survey of the items in your fridge and pantry right now, how many of them would be brand names? In addition to whole foods such as produce and bulk grains, lots of us are likely to reach for brand name items such as Organic Valley milk, Dannon yogurt, Applegate Naturals bacon, and Honey Bunches of Oats cereal. According to new data collected by Morning Consult Brand Intelligence, the food and beverage industry is the most trusted one in the United States, which ranked first out of other industries, including automotive, financial services, retail, and travel.

As explained in the report, which surveyed more than 5,000 U.S. adults between March and April of this year, consumer trust is extremely important to brands — especially in the complicated times of the past few years, when the pandemic has upended shoppers' habits (via McKinsey & Company). Perhaps more than ever, brands are guiding their policies and decisions to best accommodate consumers and maintain brand loyalty. But as reported by Food Dive, which analyzed Morning Consult's data, younger shoppers — those from Gen Z, and millennials — have less brand loyalty than their older peers.

Younger shoppers are not as brand loyal as older ones

According to a new report on consumer trust conducted by Morning Consult Brand Intelligence, the food and drink industry is the most trusted in the United States, but brand loyalty might be more in peril than it has been in older generations. In its analysis of Morning Consult's data, Food Dive found that a whopping 84% of baby boomers surveyed — that's the generation born between 1946 and 1964 (via Investopedia) — trust the industry, with 82% of high-income consumers saying they trust it. But that number slips significantly the younger the survey respondent is, with only 62% of Gen Z'ers (anyone born from 1997 and onward) trusting the food and beverage industry, and only 67% of millennials (anyone born between 1981 and 1996) trusting it.

Morning Consult found that these younger generations have higher expectations of their customer service and social media interactions with brands, and that their trust in a brand might wane based on what they deem a bad interaction. Its data noted that more than 1 in 3 consumers said they have switched food and drink brands when their trust waned — more than any other category (via Food Dive). Today, among the younger generations of shoppers, these incidents that cause a loss of brand trust happen more frequently than they did in older generations, Morning Consult reported.

Increasingly, food companies are focusing efforts on younger consumers

Understandably, food and drink brands have taken notice of these patterns. As younger generations become a larger source of revenue, Food Dive reported, brands are increasingly focusing their efforts on these generations in the hopes of retaining their trust. The outlet noted that younger consumers, for example, place a high value on sustainability, and that as a response, food brands are promoting their sustainability efforts more and more, using reduced-waste packaging, scaling down their water use, and sourcing more sustainable ingredients. Given younger shoppers' increased use of the internet and social media, companies are also fine tuning their online presence and customer service options to meet those needs.

Among the food brands most trusted by consumers, Morning Consult Brand Intelligence's data reveals a few old standbys: General Mills' Cheerios; Mars Wrigley's M&Ms; Mondelēz International's Ritz; and Heinz. But Great Value, Walmart's private label brand which, true to its name, offers lower-priced food and drink options, was the 11th most-trusted brand among millennials, a generation that consistently reports more financial hardship than do older consumers (via Food Dive). With food prices up more than 10% over last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it's increasingly likely that more cash-strapped shoppers will switch over to grocery store brands — especially if the big name brands slip up and lose their trust.