Millennials, over 80 million strong, are the largest generation of young people in history. Like every generation that came before, millennials come with their own set of characteristics that make them unique. They demand genuineness and transparency from companies, value social networking, are highly influential and even expect to participate in product development so that companies “do it right.”

While this generation is full of brashness and confidence, many of the principles which define millennials are still aspirational and not yet behavioral. They want to be seen as doing their part, but their behavior is at times suppressed by confusion, uncertainty and price sensitivity. However, because millennials are early adopters and influencers, and do seek ways to make these “aspirational” attitudes actual behaviors, they are an attractive group for many organizations in the sustainable marketplace. In fact, millennials report that their purchase decisions, more so than all older generations, are supported by a conscientious understanding of how their decisions will affect the sustainability of the environment, the world and its people.

Millennial purchasing behavior is also expanding across a greater range of categories driven by their entry into new life stages, such as home ownership and parenthood. That said, millennials are increasingly looking for products to be sustainable and eco-friendly, with twice as many indicating they are willing to pay a premium for them compared to 10 years ago.

They also want their food purchases to align with their sustainable values, highlighting a higher need for transparency in snack and bakery product ingredient labeling. In fact, the majority of millennials select foods based on the ingredient list on the package (58 percent), look for foods/beverages with a short list of recognizable ingredients (57 percent) and prefer foods that are minimally processed (66 percent). Even further, they over-index against the population for rating “sustainable” attributes as somewhat to very important in their food and beverage purchase decisions, including vegetarian, fair trade, free-range, organically grown, certified organic and natural.

Millennials are significantly more likely than all older generations to choose organic versions of crackers, chips, tortilla chips, energy bars and granola bars when deciding which snack and bakery products to purchase. In fact, they are significantly more likely than older consumers to check for organic and natural ingredients on a food label when making a purchasing decision.

In addition to the need for transparency in food labeling, millennials look for companies and brands to be transparent. In fact, over three-quarters of millennials feel it is important for companies to not just be profitable, but to be mindful of their impact on the environment and society. Even further, significantly more millennials than consumers over 55 years old indicate knowing that a company is mindful of its impact on the environment and society makes them more likely to try and buy their products. Therefore, companies with practices that align with the environmental and social ideals of this aspiring, altruistic generation will possess the fundamental framework for building a solid brand relationship with them.

Consumers are more interested than ever in aligning their personal values with the brands they buy, raising the bar for companies to clearly define and articulate their values. Demand for product transparency is clearly on the rise, and brands that fulfill this demand by providing comprehensive information from sourcing, manufacturing and social cause efforts are positioned to gain favor. The sheer size of millennials as a group, coupled with their unique qualities, is causing a whole realignment of how business is conducted. Companies need to stay attuned to this reality in order to best capture their enormous purchasing power.