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How Millennials Are Driving Transparency for CPG Brands

How Millennials Are Driving Transparency for CPG Brands

Millennials will soon be surpassing the Boomer generation, making them the largest living adult generation in the United States. Consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands are paying attention to this shift.

In 2019, the millennial population is expected to increase to 73 million, while the Boomer population will drop to 72 million. As their numbers soar, millennials are also spending about $600 billion per year and average around $47,112 per individual in annual expenditures. This places them in an even more influential position as shoppers in the marketplace.

A good portion of the money millennials spend is on products and brands that offer convenience, instant gratification, and high-end experiences. For example, millennials have an affinity for snacking – as often as four times a day – which has increased sales and boosted growth within the CPG industries.

The primary characteristic that sets millennial shoppers apart from others is how they make their purchase decisions. While other shoppers will primarily look to price, taste, and convenience when making purchases, millennials make their buying decisions based on the tenets of self, society, and planet. This creates a strong push for brand transparency.

This demographic has the numbers to influence the CPG industry, and that is exactly what is happening. These brands are responding to their largest audience base by adjusting how they market to them – by giving them the transparency they demand.

Millennials and Their Demand for Transparency

Transparency has become increasingly important to shoppers, and this is mostly due to the tremendous growth of the millennial population. Around 70% of shoppers would prefer that the retailers they patronize were more open regarding their sustainability efforts. What’s more, around 70% of millennials report that they will spend more money on brands that support causes that are important to them.

And these shoppers also expect to have information readily available when and where they need it. In fact, 56% of millennials say that while they are shopping in the store they will look up product and brand information on their smartphone before making a purchase decision.

How CPG Brands Can Achieve Transparency

Millennials are shaping market trends, prompting brands to take a different approach to their marketing. In order to compete and attract this large, driving population, they must prepare and adapt to millennial attitudes and behaviors. From where they shop to how they research products to what products they select, the majority of these shoppers are not interested in brands that are only concerned with their bottom line. They flock to brands that serve a larger purpose, that address socioeconomic and environmental issues in their community and the world and make them feel like each time they purchase a product they are contributing to something important.

This unique generation is not only the largest, but it is also the first to really push brands to think about how they connect with them as shoppers. And since they are very tech savvy, the digital landscape presents new opportunities for CPG brands to reach and engage millennial shoppers.


As millennials are beginning to redefine the term “healthy,” these shoppers are more likely to seek out and purchase products that bear labels such as non-GMO, Certified Organic, and hormone free. They want to understand what’s included in the foods they’re consuming, and they expect to find that information on product packaging. Hellmann’s answered this call by announcing that all its products – including mayonnaise, dressings and spreads – are now made exclusively with cage-free eggs, and they reminded shoppers of this transition through new product labeling.

Product Sourcing

Beyond access to information about ingredients via product labels, millennial shoppers also want to know how products are sourced and whether they’re obtained in a responsible way. This extends to their snacking options, as 64% of respondents in this age group say there aren’t enough “ethical” snacks, while 67% say they would pay more money for ethically produced, grab-and-go foods, according to a survey by Food & Wine.

The Dr. Pepper Snapple Group is leading the charge by adding a social responsibility page to their website. It details the policies that the company has created regarding ethical sourcing, and it also outlines the code of conduct that the brand requires its suppliers to follow. Unilever is also rising to the occasion by launching a new brand of plant-based organic snack foods that will help fund urban farming initiatives.


This is another area that presents a great opportunity for CPG brands to reach and engage millennials. It is also a significant purchasing driver, as sustainability has become a shopping priority for this demographic. And as growing trends indicate, they are drawn to brands that share their values.

Many brands are capitalizing on this shift in behavior by adopting sustainable practices and focusing their marketing messaging to reinforce their commitment to help – and not harm – the environment. Coca-Cola, for example, has vowed to collect and recycle 100% of the packaging it sells by 2030. This supports their goal to protect the earth by reducing the amount of plastic waste that affects the natural environment.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Other areas of engagement for millennials are philanthropy and volunteerism. On a personal level, they are becoming more engaged in social causes and they are seeking out brands that share their focus. However, they are looking for more than just “lip service.” When it comes to authenticity in the claims of a company’s stand on environmental or social issues, 76% of millennials say that they will do research to ensure that the brand is genuine.

Tide, a brand that has found great popularity among millennials due in part to its philanthropic efforts, is providing the transparency that these shoppers want. Through its Loads of Hope program, the detergent brand volunteers to provide free laundry services to victims in areas affected by disasters, including tornadoes, hurricanes and the California wildfires. They not only put real action behind the words, but they also dedicate pages on their website for visitors to learn more about the program, as well as participate through monetary or clothing donations.

Many CPG brands have supported social and environmental causes throughout the years, but this demand for transparency – particularly from millennials – is causing them to change their approach. In order to attract new shoppers and better engage existing ones, they must be willing to give them a behind-the-scenes look into how they’re making and sourcing products, as well as their efforts to do business in an ethical and responsible way. Others may even have to adopt new practices to meet their expectations. This is a driving force among the millennial generation, and they will choose brands that support their values.

Millennials are not only inspiring transparency, they are changing the way that CPG brands think about it. In fact, they are causing a shift in marketing strategies and even corporate focus across a number of industries. The face of the marketplace is changing, and brands that want to maintain a competitive edge must get on board with what their shoppers want. In this case, it’s transparency in the good they are doing to make the world – and their products – better.