St. Olaf College | News

Where milk, millennials, and marketing meet

Molly Fitzgerald ’15 at Kemps, where she spent Interim researching how millennials view dairy products.

What do millennials look for when they hit the grocery store? Why do they enjoy cooking at home more? Why is a product being all-natural more important to them than it being organic?

And what do these questions have to do with their dairy consumption?

These are the questions Molly Fitzgerald ’15 spent her Interim researching for Kemps.

To find out what drives the buying habits of millennials — the generation of young people roughly between the ages of 15 and 35 — the Minnesota-based dairy company turned to a millennial for help.

Applying academics to the real world
In her month-long internship, Fitzgerald began by reading background research on how millennials think about dairy; business and marketing research journals; and books on food trends. She then designed a survey for millennials, asking questions on the consumption of dairy and nondairy milk, yogurt, ice cream, and frozen yogurt, focusing on the importance of health when making purchasing decisions.

Her research will help Kemps develop future marketing strategies.

It also gave Fitzgerald, a psychology major with a management studies concentration, the opportunity to apply her academic interests to a real-world setting.

“I am increasingly interested in consumers, and the truly interdisciplinary skills I have learned at St. Olaf allow me to dig deeper into understanding them,” she says.

Fitzgerald registered her internship for academic credit and received funding through the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career. As part of St. Olaf’s commitment to supporting students as they navigate potential career paths, the Piper Center offers numerous resources to help students secure internships that will enrich their studies and help them hone their professional skills.

Last year 151 students earned academic credit for their internships. In addition to providing students with the ability to register their internships for academic credit, the Piper Center offers students funding for unpaid or underpaid internships.

Looking at a future in the food industry
Fitzgerald’s internship provided her with a wealth of hands-on learning experiences. In addition to her research, she also learned about “bridging the gap between the companies and consumers,” which can be transferable to many other types of business. Her internship at Kemps helped her “gain insight into the process of marketing research and into consumer motivations,” she says.

“This type of research is thoroughly engaging and almost always piques my curiosity,” Fitzgerald says. “The employees at Kemps are extremely supportive and have taught me so much.”

Fitzgerald previously interned over the summer in both the Human Resources and Marketing departments at Kemps, where she was able to explore both fields and compare and contrast their work.

At the end of the summer, she was approached by St. Olaf alumna Rachel Meyer Kyllo ’84, senior vice president of sales and marketing, about designing a marketing research project for January. That led to her work researching millennial attitudes toward dairy.

“I am particularly interested in the food industry and could go on forever about how fascinating I find it. And I hope to pursue a career in the marketing realm, whether that be marketing, communications, or public relations,” Fitzgerald says. “So, I am currently trying to find a marriage of the two.”