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Millennials will change the produce industry

The workforce that once made the United States what it is today has changed over the years. We do not do work today the way we did it a few years ago. Computers, robotics and other technologies have changed the way companies work.

Not only will state-of-the-art equipment and cutting-edge methods change the way companies do business in just a few short years, but so will future workers.

For employers, the workers of tomorrow will dramatically revolutionize the way in which business is conducted.

For retailers, these workers will certainly think much differently and breathe new life into efforts to reach consumers.

This new workforce is known as Millennials, Gen-Yers or, alternatively, Echo Boomers. They are the offspring of the Baby Boomers who were born between 1946 and 1964. Although some dates vary, the Millennials were born anywhere between 1980 and 2000.

Millennials, or Gen-Yers, were born with high technology in their hands. This generation will eventually be running businesses as well as the country in the years to come.

Here are 10 characteristics of Millennials and Gen-Yers you need to know about:

Technology inspired: They want the latest electronic gadget and can’t live without it. They want to learn all about the newest software programs.

Highly educated: Most have college degrees and are still in higher educational studies. Over 50 percent already have some college and will eventually complete their degree.

Well traveled: Many have studied in foreign countries and have learned about other cultures. They brought home different thinking from the way they were living and the types of food they ate.

Working habits: They are very flexible, but prefer to set their own schedules. They would work longer hours in exchange for a shorter workweek and would like extra days off rather than a monetary bonus. They enjoy working in groups as a team and helping one another. They want work to be fun rather than an obstacle and are willing to work longer hours just to complete a project.

However, they tend to change jobs more frequently, as 90 percent could possibly leave a company within three years if they become bored.

Smartphone users: They are savvy with social media and rely on tweeting and texting rather than face-to-face communication. This can be a weakness with customers and company leaders.

Cleverly creative: They enjoy challenges using their technological inventive skills to help companies expand. They have fast-paced energy and multi-tasking endurance.

Community service: They participate in giving back something to the community. They are very supportive of local fundraising, charities and global relations.

Sustainability: Anything green is within their preference. They are willing to pay higher prices if the product or service is associated with sustainability. Over 90 percent of Millennials are loyal to companies and products that support good causes and activities.

Word-of-mouth shoppers: They listen to family and friends for advice and rely on electronic social media to influence them in choosing specific products rather than general commercial advertising. They do not read newspapers nor own a landline.

Living habits: They like living in downtown areas of cities. Most will walk or ride a bike rather than own and drive a car to a location.

Companies need to rethink their operating strategies with respect to the new Millennials in reference to the workforce, marketing, retail store formats, merchandising and especially product lines. There will be greater pressure for company management to consider making necessary changes in order to appease the new generation of workers and consumers. This generation will continue to grow rapidly during the next five to 10 years. Millennials will seek different preferences in both job positions and shopping.

Millennials have a far different perspective and are very self-confident as to what their needs are and what to expect in work, recreation, products and shopping.

They will change the face of everything on the planet. Regarding food, Millennials will respond to products that are attached to sustainability. Organic produce is a sure hit with them. Anything connected with energy, such as drinks, are their favorites. They like convenience, on-the-go food, earth-friendly packaging, informative labeling and more choices.

Above all, fresh healthy fruits and vegetables are at the top of their list because they represent health and nutrition.

It is strongly recommended that all levels of the produce industry study Gen-Yers and Millennials to better understand who they are, what they like and where they are headed in our industry. We cannot keep doing the same old things when they step off the bus upon arrival. Start planning right now for a dramatic change in the way your business operates in the coming years.

Remember, the socially involved Millennials are reading all about us on their smartphones at this very moment.

Ron Pelger is the owner of RONPROCON, a consulting firm for the produce industry, and a member of the FreshXperts consortium of produce professionals. He can be reached by phone at 775/853-7056, by e-mail at ron@power-produce.com, or check his web site at www.power-produce.com.