Retailing to Today’s Life Stage Diversity

October 29, 2014

Food retailing today is an industry at a crossroads. Ironically, retailers have never had more power in the value chain, with some of the more food progressive stores even persuading Americans to alter their diets and explore well beyond the traditional food categories they grew up eating. At the same time, too many retailers cling to outdated assumptions about their core shoppers and the eating and cooking behaviors actually taking place in their households.  These assumptions still creep into merchandising, branding and shopper marketing strategies.  If retailers want to capture a larger share of today’s more diverse, sophisticated consumers, this needs to quickly change.

In 1960, roughly 48% of  American households were families with young kids at home1. Moms were in charge and dominated the profit pools of virtually every grocery store in America. After WWII, local grocery chains proliferated by catering to these mothers of the baby boom. Store design and shopper marketing focused almost single-mindedly on servicing a busy home cook with traditional tastes. This meant stores stocked products and ingredients assuming that ‘Mom’ cooked large family dinners virtually every evening. Grocers also assumed that restaurants were an infrequent indulgence and that the vast majority of a household’s grocery spend occurred on pantry-stocking trips. The flip side of the ‘Mom coin’ was that grocers in this era could easily afford to ignore the specialized needs of non-family households, such as people living alone and empty nesters.

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