Most of the time when Millennials thank the Baby Boomer generation, they’re being sarcastic. As in, “Thank you for making housing five times more expensive for us than for our parents.” And the Baby Boomers mock Millennials in return. But certain thriving industries should be thanking Millennials. Because the same group that’s been taunted for living with their parents and accused of wrecking the auto industry and the institution of marriage has also created numerous breakout industries. (Okay, some of them were big long ago and are having a resurgence due to Millennial support, but you get the idea.) Here are four surprising examples of industries that thrive because they’re magnets for Millennials:
Cosmetics and skincare
It may be due to all those make-up tutorials that run on YouTube and vlogs combined with all the selfies Millennials post that keep these industries thriving. Gotta look good for the camera! Or maybe the explanation is that hot shows like “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (with Millennial Rachel Brosnahan in the title role) feature really great cosmetics. Whatever the lure, the cosmetics industry is having a moment and Millennials are to thank. According to NPD’s “State of the Beauty Industry” report for 2018-2019, the prestige beauty industry in the U.S. increased 6 percent in a single year to reach $18.8 billion in 2018. Skincare was up by 13 percent and accounted for 60 percent of the gains in the industry. Does this mean Millennials are planning to stay forever young?
This Bud’s for you, Mr. Baby Boomer, but this craft beer’s for that Millennial who just finished the brewery tour. Yes, hipster, home-brewer, artisanal beer snobs are making the craft beer industry flourish. According to a noteworthy survey from Chicago-based market C+R Research, 56 percent of Millennials drink a craft beer at least once each week. They also spend an average $64 each month on beer, even (gasp!) more than they pay for the monthly cell phone bill. Some of the influence depends on the Millennial yen for sustainability (more about that in a second.) The local and regional craft beers use seasonal ingredients, help locals get jobs and don’t require environmentally harsh shipping. As for how this dedication to craft quaffs affects the industry, the number of craft breweries has more than quadrupled in the years from 2007 to 2018, from 1,511 to 7,000-plus. Not coincidentally, the majority of Millennials reached legal drinking age in many of those same years.
Millennials are just not that into styrofoam or even recyclable plastic bottles. They’re a generation that wants goods and services the planet can sustain, from their ever-present $40 water bottles to the 401(k) investment choices at those companies where everyone brings their dog to work. This Millennial-led trend of planet protection increased consumer spending on sustainable products about 20 percent between 2014 and 2018, according to Nielsen research. And the Millennials will still be going strong with sustainability in the near future. Nielsen projects the growth to increase from its current $128.5 billion all the way to $150 billion in the next two years.
Along with making sustainable food and personal goods purchases, Millennials are demanding investments that reflect social or environmental causes they support. The number of sustainable investments, including company-provided 401(k) options, has soared in the past couple of years. The total topped $12 trillion in 2018. Mother Nature and sustainable investment groups say, “Thank you, Millennial investors.”
Houseplants, especially succulents
This is a pretty cool industry to support, but millennials shouldn’t think they’re the first to make houseplants big business. When the Baby Boomers were coming up, they too lavished attention on houseplants like African violets, grapefruit plants grown from seeds, and spider plants danging from homemade macrame holders. But what’s old is new again, with Millennials kicking the houseplant trend into high gear once more. The National Gardening Association said all houseplant sales increased by $1.7 billion in the past three years, growing by almost 50 percent between 2015 and 2018. Almost one in three households purchased at least one houseplant last year, with cacti, succulents and terrarium components selling most briskly. Millennials ages 18 to 34 are making around a third of those plant purchases. Along with simple houseplant purchases, other innovative entertainment and delivery options supported by Millennials are driving industry growth. Some of the hyped-up earnings come from online “plant of the month clubs,” for example. A rash of plant delivery services similar to Instacart have also emerged, delivering plants on-demand in place of groceries. Another factor spurring the growth of houseplant growing: PlantNite parties. That’s where Millennials in 32 states can create terrariums or other Pinterest-worthy projects for a fee at a bar (perhaps with a craft beer in hand.)
Anyone paying even a little attention knows that many of those houseplants are easy-to-grow succulents. This could be because succulents demand little care and less light than, say, orchids. Or maybe Millennials just want something that’s beautiful, removes chemicals from even the most toxic air, and can move easily with them to the next apartment or their other parent’s basement when the time comes. As one Millennial with more than 100 houseplants explained to Market Watch, maybe plants like her fiddle-leaf fig tree named Bruce are filling a void. “I’ve tried to make them more like pets and less like plants. They have names,” she said. “I’ve stuck some googly eyes on their pots. I like having something to take care of.”