Finally, another sexual barrier is breaking down. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune this week, men increasingly are taking on a task traditionally owned by women – grocery shopping.
Even in today’s America, where most gender-based barriers have disappeared or at least shrunk over the past 30 years, the supermarket has remained primarily the domain of women. Sure, some men have done some of their family shopping, but food marketers, with reams of consumer data to back them up, continue to focus most of their marketing efforts on women.
But that appears to be changing. The article cites data from consumer-research firm GfK MRI and ESPN showing that between 1985 and 2011, the percentage of men identifying themselves as primary household grocery shoppers increased from 14 percent to 31 percent. Results of another study cited in the article, of 1,000 fathers conducted by market-research firm DB5 and Yahoo, indicate that 51 percent of them are primary grocery shoppers for their families and 60 percent claim to make their family’s food decisions.
I don’t have any proof, but I suspect the shift toward more men pushing grocery carts could be positive for the beef industry. This is a generalization, but most men like meat, and big, hearty, meat-based meals. Women do too, but as shoppers, their priorities could be more pragmatic. I can imagine a mom at the meat case, carefully calculating and comparing the grams of fat in skinless chicken breasts versus skinless chicken thighs. A dad meanwhile, at the same meat case, is channeling Homer Simpson thinking “Mmmmm. Buuuurrrgerrrs.”
To fully capitalize on this trend, marketers might need to adjust some of their messages and strategies. Perhaps they could package a pound of ground Chuck with all the seasonings, chips and cheese you need to make a big plate of nachos for the NFL playoffs. A package of T-Bone steaks could include a coupon for $2 off on a 12-pack of Bud. Maybe skip the product endorsements from celebrity chefs and recruit Chuck Norris, Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Tim Tebow instead.
Kidding aside, this trend could force food marketers to re-think some of their advertising messages, packaging and even the layout of stores and the “shopping experience.” With much of their past research and experience focused on marketing to women, they likely know little about the ways men shop or respond to food-marketing messages. Any changes, though, will need to avoid alienating women, who will remain a key customer base.