NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- They waited longer than previous generations to do it, but Millennials -- the biggest generation in history -- are now becoming parents and beginning to transform retail and consumer markets as they do so.
The generation of U.S. residents born from 1980 to 2000 numbers about 92 million, outflanking Baby Boomers by about 20 percent, according to new research from Goldman Sachs. They're now 15 to 35 years old, with an average age of 25 -- one year shy of the average age of a first-time mother, Goldman's report says.
Millennials wield tremendous buying power -- spending about $1 trillion a year on their children, not counting college and university costs -- and they research many of their purchases through social media. They're more likely than previous generations to prioritize safety and convenience, Goldman says, and they're not averse to paying a premium for brands that cater to their values.
Here are some takeaways on the behavior patterns Goldman identified, along with the bank's assessment of companies pitching their products to Millennials:
1. Millennial parents watch what they eat. In previous generations, Campbell's (CPB) soup fixed every cold, and kids started their day with Kellogg's (K) Frosted Flakes. Amid concerns about the nutrition content of sugary cereals, though, millennial parents are increasingly filling their pantries with food from Enfamil infant formula-maker Mead Johnson (MJN), White Wave (WWAV), and Hain Celestial (HAIN).
The companies may not all sound immediately familiar, but no doubt you've heard of some of their brands, from White Wave's Horizon Organic, Silk and Earthbound Farm to Hain Celestial's Earth's Best Organic, Terra Chips and Celestial Seasonings.
"Millennials are not buying brands our parents had," Hain Celestial Founder Irwin Simon said in the report. "Millennials today go back and check what the product is made from, where it came from, how the animal has been treated and
that's something that Hain is focused on."
While the cool kids of the '80s had their birthday parties at McDonalds (MCD), today's are more likely to find a fast-food fix at Chipotle (CMG). On a calorie basis, the brand appears on par with McDonalds, but it wins on using high--quality ingredients as well as its recent commitment to using non-genetically modified, or GMO, foods.