Post Categories: August 2017

From Jim’s Desk: A Letter from the CEO

Can we blame this on Millennials, too?

I was chatting with the CEO of a major retailer recently and our conversation gravitated to how quickly things are changing around us. We ultimately concluded that the depth, breadth and speed of change is being driven by this notorious demographic: Millennials.

I related that my three kids, all in their 20s, have given up red meat, use Blue Apron, make their own salad dressings and sport wearable tech—all new lifestyle trends that would not have been the norm a decade ago. He said his kids were the same.

So, are we right? Is the Millennial generation driving these changes? Or are they just becoming the catch-all reason for today’s speedy evolution? Blaming this generation would be easy, but after some thought, I’d caution against jumping to that conclusion too quickly.

Consider this:

  • Technology is in the palm of our hands, around our wrists and in our back pockets 24/7. But when we talk about the collective group using this technology, it’s not a particular demographic making use of these innovations, it’s everyone. Grandparents have upgraded to tablets, parents are getting their groceries delivered and teenagers are tracking their steps, which leads me to believe our focus should be on how technology is being adopted, versus what age group is adopting it.
  • While the rate of change has increased slightly, we’ve been living in a time of rapid advancement for at least 30 years. The advent of the internet and cell phones have allowed technology to progress by leaps and bounds—feats that cannot be attributed to a kid in jeans and a hoodie, but to the generation that preceded Millennials. Retail has also changed its landscape because of this and will continue to change like it always has. The trick is to remember that change has long been the norm and is not just a sign of the times.
  • Quaker Foods, which is over 100 years old, began with the goal of making fresh ingredients more accessible to consumers who didn’t live near farms. That same concept is the mission that is inspiring today’s brands. Healthy eating might be a trend now, but for many years it was the standard. As we’ve moved farther from agricultural fields, learned more about food science and improved packaging and distribution, it’s only natural that we now try to solve the challenge of bringing fresh food to the dinner table.

The fact is, change is all around us, and it’s not confined to one age group. Today, roughly one in five consumers use wearable technology, so we can’t say there’s only one dynamic cohort. Age-specific segmentation is less useful than other means of examining constituencies, so let’s think more about how tech adoption and other factors are playing into the shifts we see around us.

What’s your take? Let’s continue the conversation—email me anytime at

All the best,
Jim Holbrook
Chief Executive Officer