Millennials are not the only foodies who matter

Millennials are not the only foodies who matter

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Many food retailers and foodservice companies persist in focusing their marketing efforts on foodies under the age of 35, or those who are members of the Millennial generation.  Packaged Facts report Foodies in the U.S.: Opportunities for Restaurants and Retail, 2nd Edition confirms that foodies have an above-average likelihood of being under the age of 35, so there is good reason for marketers to ramp up efforts to attract Millennial foodies.

However, marketers need to be cautious about assuming that the only foodies who count are Millennials.    Packaged Facts has found that members of the Boomer generation also represent a key market segment for food retailers and restaurants.  While the demographic characteristics of the foodies highlighted in the Packaged Facts Foodies in the U.S.: Opportunities for Restaurants and Retail, 2nd Edition report reflect those of various age groups as a whole, the psychographic profiles of Millennial and Boomer foodies are remarkably similar.  In fact, there is a noteworthy convergence across a broad spectrum of attitudes and behaviors on the part of foodies of all age groups.

Whether they are Millennials or Boomers, foodies share a common underlying desire not only to seek out new food experiences and products but to try new things of all kinds, whether shopping at a new store, wearing new clothing styles or buying new gadgets.  Moreover, there is a strong similarity in the eating habits, food preferences, food shopping habits and attitudes toward cooking at home of foodies all ages.  For example, foodies in the Boomer generation are about as likely as their Millennial counterparts to usually only snack on healthy foods, look for organic or natural foods when shopping for food, only look for the freshest ingredients when they cook, view their kitchen as the most important room in their home  and really enjoy cooking.

The risks food retailers face if they place too much stock in the importance of Millennial customers-or for that matter any single demographic segment-was highlighted in May 2015 when Whole Foods announced plans to launch a new value-priced chain of stores targeting Millennials.  The company’s co-CEO described the goals of the new store concept as follows: 

Offering our industry-leading standards at value prices, this new format will feature a modern, streamlined design, innovative technology and a curated selection.  It will deliver a convenient, transparent and values-oriented experience geared to Millennial shoppers, while appealing to anyone looking for high-quality fresh food at great prices.

By relying on a demographic rather than a psychographic foundation for its new store format, Whole Foods may find that it has offended or alienated the millions of food-focused consumers who are not under the age of 35.  As pointed out in a May 14, 2015 post on HBR Blog Network by Robyn Bolton, a partner with Innosight, a Boston, Massachusetts-based consulting firm, by explicitly gearing its new concept toward Millennial shoppers, Whole Foods could be perceived as suggesting that “Gen X and Baby Boomer shoppers are fine with or even prefer old, cluttered stores that sell a confusing array of stuff at high prices.”  In the end, as demonstrated by Packaged Facts Foodies in the U.S.: Opportunities for Restaurants and Retail, 2nd Edition report and as further noted by Bolton in her blog post, the Whole Foods strategy reflects a potentially fatal flaw in “traditional segmentation approaches” which assume that people in the same age cohort “are the same and that they are also distinctly different from everyone in other demographics.”