“The millenial generation are more passionate about food than any other generation we’ve ever seen,” said Phil Lempert, a longtime retail consultant who is also known as the “supermarket guru”. Lempert spoke recently on Town Hall Ohio about consumer behavior, marketing trends and the changing retail landscape.
The instant information age has caused consumers to become more curious and concerned about how their food is raised and that trend will continue, he said. That means farmers need to work harder than ever to educate the public about their livelihood.
“We as an industry have done a horrible job communicating to the consumer. Consumers need to start to understand how difficult it is to be a farmer and it’s not a person that’s riding on a tractor and listening to their Sony walkman as some people want to depict. That it’s really hard work and really smart work,” said Lempert, who has talked as an expert about food and consumer trends on national TV news programs.
Farmers need to tell both extraordinary and ordinary stories —in simple language—about their operations to help consumers better understand the economical and environmental challenges of farming, he said. Having an open conversation with consumers will make it easier to clear up misconceptions about agriculture.
“We’ve got to get people to understand that biotech doesn’t mean GMO. That’s the biggest problem we see with consumers. Whenever (biotech) comes up, they go right to GMOs,” he said. “We need them to understand that science has helped farming enormously.”
Lempert touched on Chipotle’s marketing efforts, calling them “brilliant” but unfair to the agriculture industry. He predicted its attacks on large scale agriculture will eventually hurt the company.
“(Chipotle’s marketing campaign) is going to have major repercussions. It really paints the agriculture industry in a very distasteful way. Yes, you can produce a clever video but that doesn’t mean that it’s true or doable. Down the road, Chipotle is going to have to say ‘we wanted to do all these great things but frankly we weren’t able to’,” he said.
Hear Lempert discuss more consumer and food trends below: