Winning millennials with innovation

by Monica Watrous    View Me on Google+
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Pizza Hut developed Big Pizza Sliders with millennials in mind.

 

NEW ORLEANS — There are millennials, and then there are “famillennials.”

“These are the 24- to 34-year-olds who have young children in the home,” said Dominique Vitry, director of quality assurance, Pizza Hut, Yum! Brands. “During the day, they may be eating like millennials and snacking through the day, but when they get home, they’re responsible for another individual.… We try to understand these two segments and have product offerings to bridge that gap.”

Pizza Hut, Dunkin’ Donuts and Delta Air Lines are among many brands paying special attention to millennial consumers. Research and development professionals from each company discussed ways to engage the dynamic demographic June 23 during a panel presentation at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition held in New Orleans.

At Pizza Hut, products are developed with both millennials and its internally coined “famillennials” in mind. Last year’s Big Pizza Sliders, which are handheld pizzas with mix-and-match toppings, were designed around the eating style of millennials, which typically involves snacking throughout the day. The product not only offered portability and convenience but also the option to customize with up to three varieties per 9-count order, a benefit for families with varying preferences of pizza toppings, Ms. Vitry said.

Customization is a key platform for Dunkin’ Donuts, too, which on its Behind the Beans blog features recipes consumers may make with the chain’s products.

“We had seen a couple years ago that consumers were going into the stores and mixing and matching flavors,” said Heidi Curry, senior manager, Bakery, Global R.&D., Dunkin’ Brands. “So, we did a lot of work in the R.&D. lab to create some fun flavors to give consumers ideas of how they can create their own product but also the opportunity to go in the store and customize.”

Authenticity and transparency are also important to millennials, who Ms. Curry described as food savvy and socially conscious.

“’Where is my food coming from?’” said Christian Hallowell, customer dedicated executive chef at gategroup for Delta Air Lines. “’How am I relating to it? How authentic is it? Am I having a unique and differentiated experience?’ I think those are baseline (expectations)."

Most millennials missed the days of complimentary meals on flights, so they are more willing to pay for an on-board entree, Mr. Hallowell said. Thus, Delta has developed a food program tailored to the flavor and ingredient trends that most resonate with the generation. The airline offers five celebrity chef programs throughout the country, including a farm-to-tray-table concept — a breakthrough idea in airline catering, Mr. Hallowell noted.

“Food for us is very challenging because we’re serving over a half million people a day all over the world,” he said. “We’re launching different concepts around the country based on the tenets of millennials; they’re looking for authenticity and wanting to be connected to what they’re doing.”

Millennials also crave discovery and new experiences, a potential challenge for mature brands like Dunkin’ Donuts and Pizza Hut.

“That’s definitely one of the biggest challenges we have at Pizza Hut,” Ms. Vitry said. “We’ve been around since 1958, so there is a fine balance between being viewed as ‘I’m a little kid when I go to that place’ vs. ‘I can go and discover something new.’ It’s all about reinventing yourself over and over and over again but still staying true to why you were there to begin with.”

Dunkin’ Donuts aims to stay relevant by evolving its menu with such concepts as customizable sandwiches, snack-size items and on-trend flavors.

“Everybody knows Dunkin’ is a coffee and donut brand, but as we continue to grow we’ve been growing in this snacking, or P.M. savory, breakfast sandwich, afternoon sandwich category, as well as our A.M. bakery,” Ms. Curry said. “How do we make something that consumers trust us as a brand, but then bring it to the next level? It’s through our creative process of L.T.O.s, bringing in new products that are familiar with a twist.”
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