Generation Y is drawn to retailers who are authentic, help them learn about food, and care about local communities, said Justin Dye, EVP and COO, East Region, New Albertsons.
He was part of a panel at the FMI Midwinter Executive Conference in Miami Beach that delved into how younger consumers are changing the industry.
"Local, community connections and local causes are on trend from the Millennial perspective," he said. "On the food side, organic produce, proteins, local products, and local grower tie-ins are important. But it's not just about product. It's also about authentic, real service. And taking care of the needs of the community is authentic."
Dye said that a lot of younger shoppers don't know much about cooking, so the retailer can play the role of teacher in a few easy steps.
He added that employee bases need to reflect younger consumers as well, and he urged companies to use social media to focus on listening more than talking.
Sue Klug, SVP and CMO, Unified Grocers, said the independent retail community has a special role with Millennials.
"We're a wholesaler supplying independent grocers, and those retailers are in a great spot to connect with local communities," she said. "There's a resurgence among independents in having those kinds of connections. Authentic service is key. It's more than just the need to say hi to customers. You need to connect in a real way. For example, moms love to hear how beautiful their children are."
Another panelist, Benno Dorer, CEO, The Clorox Co., said companies need to connect to consumers with "relevant life ideas" on everything from fitness to sustainability. "It's not about selling products, but connecting with people on what matters to them."
The panel followed a presentation by pollster John Zogby, who discussed how the American dream has changed and how different generations are diverging in behavior.
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