Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Saffron Road serial entrepreneur shares what inspires millennials

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Soup-To-Nuts Podcast, Millennials, Animal welfare, plant-based

Even as food and beverage brands are starting to look more closely at Gen Z shoppers to determine what they want and what makes them tick, many are still struggling to pinpoint how best to engage with millennials who Goldman Sachs has dubbed “the most attractive demographic in the history of America.”

Estimated at 86 million strong and growing faster than other older demographics, Millennials continue to hold the spotlight for many brands, especially now that this group is firmly in their prime spending years and starting to have families and influence future generations.

To better understand what millennials want and how brands can meet these demands to fuel fast, long-term growth, this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Soup-To-Nuts podcast​ features hard-won insights, lessons learned and advice from serial entrepreneur Adnan Durrani, who is the current CEO of the globally-inspired frozen entrée and plant-based protein snack brand Saffron Road, which recently was named one of the fastest growing private companies in America by Inc. 5000 for the third time.

[Editor’s Note: ​Don’t miss a single episode for FoodNavigator-USA’s Soup-To-Nuts podcast​, which looks at emerging trends, marketing strategies and regulatory pressures in the food and beverage industry. Subscribe on iTunes today​.]

Take the long-view

Long before Durrani won accolades as the CEO of Saffron Road, he cut his teeth turning several niche products into mainstream brands, including as the founder of Vermont Pure Spring Water, a principle financial partner for Stonyfield Farms Yogurt and a principle of Delicious Brands.

Reflecting on his nearly three decades as a successful serial entrepreneur in the food and beverage space, Durrani jokes that he has “foodie culture ingrained in [his] genetics.”​ But the reality is he was able to spot emerging trends far into the future before many others could by doing an “intensive amount of research”​ and having patience to slowly build a brand one retailer or one region at a time.

“One of the most important things is really doing your research. Really studying the category and not going for what’s hot or what’s the trend today. But really looking out 10 years for what the mega shifts going on in both the consumer environment, the demographics as well as future concerns of consumers,”​ he said.

Once entrepreneurs identify a feasible trend and way to meet it, he added, they need to start small and test their ide with one retail partner or in one region. Once they have traction, they can build from there.

Following his own advice, Durrani has taken a deep dive into the research about what millennials want and he has uncovered several core values on which he says he believes they currently are or soon will base their purchase decisions. These include:

  1. Catering to an emerging Halal-foodie culture​, which Bloombert and AC Nielsen estimate is at $20 billion category growing at 15%. It also isn’t restricted to just those who follow the strict dietary guidelines. Rather, it is an indicator to all consumers that the products have clean ingredients, were made with animal welfare standards and offer full transparency, Durrani said. He added everything Saffron Road offers is Halal certified.
  2. Offering global flavors​ – Durrani says Saffron Road’s biggest strength is its world cuisine positioning, which many adventure-seeking millennials want. He adds offering authentic flavors is key to successfully meeting this trend.
  3. Following high animal welfare standards​ – “The idea of animal welfare is really huge and it’s been underrepresented. We’re seeing it come up every now and then in various trade press and certainly in food shows and a lot of chefs are now talking about. I think it’s a leading indicator of something in five or 10 years that going to be as big as the plant-based movement,”​ Durrani said.
  4. Being sustainable​ – Pointing to the many millennials who attended climate change events in New York last month, Durrani said that younger shoppers think about how a brand’s products and packaging impact the environment. “Our brand, obviously, celebrates that and works with a lot of suppliers that adhere to Fair Trade”​ and strives to minimize our carbon footprint, he said. For example, he noted, Saffron Road’s simmer sauces use one-third less of a carbon footprint than glass because they come in pouches.
  5. A whole food approach that minimizes processing – ​Durrani predicts that the highly processed plant-based products that are garnering so much attention currently will lead to a backlash against the plant-based movement as a whole because they are so heavily processed. This in turn will push consumers to look for higher quality animal products, such as grass-fed beef, which Durrani calls he original plant-based protein.
  6. Convenience in the freezer aisle ​– Time-strapped millennials are returning to the freezer section because they are looking for meal solutions that are fast and easy to prepare and that will also stay fresh without preservatives, Durrani said. He added that clean label brands like Saffron Road are making it easier to find healthy options in the freezer section. He also shared advice on how best to market frozen foods, which have the added challenge of often being placed behind doors that can frost over – making it hard for consumers to see what is inside.  

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