As Boomers age, their shopping contrasts shift

August 04, 2009

As marketers have come to learn, Boomers are no homogeneous group.

As marketers have come to learn, Boomers are no homogeneous group. They defy generalization, just as they’ve defied convention their entire adult lives. They’ve wrought endless change in society and will continue to do so.

So it is little surprise that different Boomer segments defined by their age behave differently when it comes to shopping, their use of private label products, and their propensity to eat for health and wellness. A recent study from Information Resources Inc. (IRI), Baby Boomers II: Preparing for the Upcoming Wave of Aging Shopper Growth, provides a current snapshot of some distinct category and channel preferences by age, along with attitudinal insights. 

Here’s one for marketers to incorporate in their thinking:  Lifestyle and health drivers that change over time drive consumption changes over time. How this plays out in beverages, for example, IRI told Supermarket people often develop an aversion to carbonated beverages as they age, they drink less beer and more wine/liquor into their 60s and 70s. Same goes for less soft drinks and more coffee. As for store choice: Boomers in their 60s shop more often and spend a higher proportion of their dollars in smaller formats such as drug and dollar stores.

IRI defined Boomers as Americans born between 1946 and 1964: it called the older segment the Truman Boomer (age 53 to 62) and the younger segment Kennedy (age 44 to 52), and compared their approaches to shopping and consumption with a near-Boomer group it called LBJ (age 34 to 43).

With respect to private label, for instance, “PL growth is expected to continue well into the next decade for Boomers entering their 50s and 60s.” More specifically:
•    83% of Truman Boomers regard store brand quality as “excellent.” 70% of Kennedy Boomers say the same. And 79% of the younger LBJs “like store brands.”
•    66% of Truman Boomers buy store brands instead of name brands.
•    Truman Boomers buy more private label bottled water, ice cream and snack nuts than Kennedy Boomers. 
•    The propensity to buy PL food and beverage doesn’t carry over to nonfood categories, including over-the-counter medications.

Health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and weight concerns, affect Boomer diets as people age into their 60s and 70s, IRI notes. The older Boomers (Trumans) are most motivated to eat for nutrition:  84% of Trumans do so vs. 79% of Kennedys. Also, 61% of Trumans “eat to manage a specific health condition” vs. 46% of LBJs.

“Retailers who leverage these new insights will reap the benefits with new center-store growth,” says Sean Seitzinger, IRI Consulting & Innovation senior vice president. “The various Boomer micro-segments are being impacted [by current economic trends] in different ways and are making their own distinct choices.”

We agree. The more specific the insights, the more pinpoint the segmentation. This translates into CPG products and retail programs that more precisely suit shopper demand.