Visual Dialogue partner Susan Battista speaks about millennials at the New England Produce Council show in Boston. ( Ashley Nickle )

BOSTON — Retailers looking to sell produce to millennials should keep in mind that many millennials don’t know much about produce.

Visual Dialogue partner Susan Battista, who leads market research at the branding agency, made this recommendation based on feedback from a focus group with millennials in the Boston metro. Battista notes the lack of knowledge is not necessarily the fault of millennials; they grew up with most fruits and vegetables available year-round.

Speaking Aug. 22 at the New England Produce Council show, Battista challenged retailers to take on the task of educating shoppers about seasonality and normal shelf life.

“We would help manage their expectations,” Battista said, noting that the millennials in the focus group had mentioned they wished produce items would last longer.

Along the same lines, she suggested providing usage ideas for items in categories with lots of choices, like lettuce and apples.

“It’s a little overwhelming only because they’re not educated,” Battista said. “It’s almost like information overload.

“(For) millennials, maybe there’s a little curated section — the basics,” Battista said.

Answering the call for more information on the origin of produce is another opportunity, and doing so for local offerings can be especially beneficial, she explained.

As featuring local produce suppliers becomes more popular at restaurants, retailers should build on that name recognition in their signage and with their social media content, Battista said. The millennial focus group equated local with farms with which they’re familiar.

“They crave information,” Battista said. “They are dying to be educated.”

One key reason that millennials want to be more knowledgeable is so they can tell their friends and raise their profile as an informed shopper, Battista said.

Ideally, indulging that thirst for information is doubly beneficial for retailers; the curious shopper is satisfied with answers, and he or she talks with someone else about the store and the produce and what they learned.



Battista also encouraged retailers to consider ways to capture millennials for special events that they can then talk about and share on social media.

Grower meet-and-greets, cooking classes that include plating instruction as a finishing touch, and featuring unique displays like intricately carved watermelons could be ways to bring in those shoppers for “Instagrammable” moments. Even demos could be a useful tool.

“Anything that’s shiny and new, they’re going to try,” Battista said. “They’re adventurous.”