CHICAGO — As the millennial consumer evolves, so is Conagra Brands, Inc. Sean Connolly, president and chief executive officer, highlighted how the consumer group is impacting Conagra’s innovation strategy during the opening session of the Sosland Publishing Purchasing Seminar taking place this week in Chicago.

“They are changing the narrative of almost everything we do and almost everything everyone else does,” Mr. Connolly said.

He noted that millennials have been at the forefront of changing consumer purchasing behaviors. In the past, taste, price and convenience were key drivers. Today, such issues as nutrition, flavor distinctiveness and authenticity have become attributes of equal importance.

“As we study these changing consumer dynamics we do so more and more by really leveraging big data as we try to keep track of these trends and design products with all these modern attributes,” Mr. Connolly said.

Two issues affecting millennials are many are beginning to start families and they are financially constrained.

“Right now, they are the first generation that's making less money than their parents,” Mr. Connolly said. “But they have grown up with very sophisticated taste buds by eating out at restaurants and having takeout. So, how do they make their very weak balance sheets jive with their very expensive tastes? Increasingly it’s things like frozen food.”

Combined with the demographic beginning families, it drives home meal purchases and home meal preparation.

“They are increasingly trying new products to see what fits their evolving family structure,” Mr. Connolly said. “The second thing that we focus on is convenience. They are time pressed and as a result they are looking for convenient solutions.”

He said the pace of change is creating opportunities for food and beverage companies.

“All of this change is creating opportunities for manufacturers to sell,” he said. “And if you're going to sell and sell well in this environment there needs to be a model so you can show up and stand out. The bottom line is if you think there is a demand space out there that consumers are increasingly interested in and you don't fill that demand space, somebody else will.”