Seafood industry should prepare for millennials to take top spot in consumer spending power

Published on
January 18, 2023
IRI Senior Vice President for Protein Practice Chris Dubois speaking during the Global Seafood Market Conference

A “changing of the guard” is coming where younger consumers begin to change the grocery landscape, according to IRI Senior Vice President for Protein Practice Chris Dubois.

Speaking during the opening plenary of the National Fisheries Institute’s Global Seafood Market Conference – running from 15 to 19 January in Palm Springs, California, U.S.A. – Dubois predicted the grocery store landscape is going to shift dramatically as younger consumers get older and become the dominant buying bloc in the U.S.

“If you look at 2030, we’re going to have a very big point where half of the population is made up of millennials, Gen Z, and then there’s Gen Alpha behind it,” Dubois said. “Millennials and others will be further along in their career. So not only is it half the population, it really matters from the spending side.”

At a basic level, Dubois said, it means that millennials will quite literally change the way stores look in the future. Spending patterns for younger consumers differ significantly from older consumers in a number of different categories. He offered the example of milk, where baby boomers buy a higher amount of normal milk products on average, and millennials prefer milk alternatives. 

“Younger consumers are going to change the store,” Dubois said. “When you walk around the store, this means categories get smaller, some are going to expand.”

For the seafood industry, the rise of millennials poses a problem for future growth, as it buys less seafood on average than other generations.

“For fresh seafood, [baby] boomers buy 20 percent more seafood than the average U.S. household, and they buy a lot more than millennials,” DuBois said.

Part of that, however, is related to income. When broken down across age groups, older millennials tend to buy more seafood than younger ones – and according to Dubois, that’s largely related to older millennials being further along in their careers, allowing them to afford more expensive purchases. 

“The big question, and this is the marketing piece for the next five years, there’s a huge opportunity for those who get that, if you can encourage millennials to get to at least boomers [levels of spending], that’s going to be the big difference, because right now older millennials are not spending the same amount as boomers,” Dubois said. 

Social media channels will be essential to advertising and proliferating the purchase of seafood in the U.S., according to Dubois. Statistics show 81 percent of adults use social media multiple times a day, and younger people use it even more.

“If you want to encourage young people, this is probably the way,” Dubois said.  

Photo by Chris Chase/SeafoodSource

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