Millennials' safe place to tell their beef story
by Wendy Jenkins, Director, Market Research – NCBA
The Millennial generation (born between 1980 and 2000) represents an important consumer demographic and as a result, research was conducted using a social media outlet to determine top-line issues related to beef for this age group.
An online discussion group was held on Facebook with a group of Millennials that met specific criteria in order to gauge their attitudes toward beef, as well as beef shopping habits, cooking knowledge and preferences and concerns about beef.
The results of this qualitative research demonstrate that this age group enjoys and likes beef, but they need permission to include it in their meal choices. Results also indicate Millennials need to be provided more information related to beef selection and preparation.
Millennials – rightly coined as those born between 1980 and 2000 – are the last generation to be born in the 20th century and first to hit adulthood in the new century. The term Millennials reflects the time in which this cohort was born, however, it also denotes the new beginnings that may arise from this generation. Others have named this generation as the “Net Generation” as they have never known life without the Internet or World Wide Web. Regardless of the name given, it is undeniably a group of consumers who need to be recognized.
The beef industry recently embarked on a new research project to reach these consumers – on their terms and in the location that they are most comfortable – Facebook! The objective of the study was to understand this generation’s relationship to beef, using a methodology that is part of how they communicate on a daily basis.
The research agency, TripleScoop Market Research, identified a group of Millennials on Facebook and asked them to participate in a six week long “discussion” about their relationship with beef. In order to qualify the respondents had to:
- Be between the ages of 13-30 years;
- Eat beef at least twice per week;
- Have some level of involvement in meal planning or preparation; and
- Use Facebook regularly (at least two times per week) and have at least 25 friends on Facebook.
Of those who agreed to participate, approximately 115 became study “Friends: on Facebook.” This meant they had met all the criteria listed previously, had provided appropriate contact details and were engaged in the group where the discussion would be held on a daily basis over the course of six weeks.
The next challenge was to ensure a good number of the respondents would be fully engaged in the discussion for the required six weeks. The “moderator” of the discussion was a Millennial himself, so the way in which the questions were posed and the dialogue progressed was non-intimidating and fun, encouraging involvement of all participants. Participants were incentivized along the way with drawings for iPods, gift cards and other prizes.
Of those who had agreed to participate and then continued along the six week ”Journey with Beef ” discussion, there were 66 Millennials who actively engaged and gave feedback on 27 Facebook posts. This was an average of 22 posts per participant.
A discussion guide was developed encompassing ”everything beef “ including:
- General attitudes towards beef – how does beef fit into your world?
- Shopping for and selecting beef – lean beef versus price tradeoff;
- Eating out for beef – favorite places to find beef you love;
- Cooking beef (including favorite beef recipes) and ingredients used with beef;
- Eating beef; and
- Concerns with beef including nutrition, production and safety.
Topics went out on the discussion board daily and respondents were fully connected to answering the questions as well as responding to other’s posts on the subject. This method allowed for a rich, colorful and dynamic dialogue between participants and the moderator, so much so that the moderator had only to pose the daily question and watch the dialogue progress from there.
Data on the Millennial generation show they are “technologically dependent.” They have known the world only during the time of the Internet and therefore are completely comfortable with this form of media and expression.
Three-quarters of Millennials have a social network profile such as Facebook or MySpace, compared to 50 percent or less for other generations. One-in-four Millennials have posted a video of themselves online compared to far fewer in other generations.
They use cell phones more, they text more and many do not even have a landline telephone. For these reasons, a group on Facebook, where they feel comfortable and would be willing to share their opinions and views in a “safe” environment was the best way to reach this cohort.
The overwhelming dialogue with this group of Millennials is that they do eat beef and they just need permission to eat it more often. They need help in understanding beef and how it can fit into their world today.
Some questions these Millennials wanted answers to include:
- How much beef is too much?
- How can they make sense of the “sea of red” at their local grocery stores?
- How and where can they learn more about the various cuts of beef?
- What recipes can they use that have beef as the ingredient?
Clearly, there is an educational opportunity with this group of consumers and an opportunity worth pursuing given their size of 80 million strong.
The project was successfully completed using a different methodology and one that works well with Millennials. The next phase of research with Millennials will likely be quantitative in nature in order to validate the findings from this qualitative Facebook study and help the beef industry share information that resonates with this group of consumers.