Dads earning retail respect

October 05, 2012

Men, especially Millennials, are more food-involved at home than ever. Stores and brands are gearing up to market to them.

The evidence is mounting. Guys can stand the heat in the kitchen and the lines at the supermarket.

About the time the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 41% of men prepare meals at home, versus about half that amount in 2003, retailers began to test ‘man aisles’ in their stores, and Procter & Gamble stepped up its marketing to the willing gender.

It appears this trend will endure, since Millennial men are more food-involved than earlier generations. “Generation X adults view life as a smorgasboard and have a little bit of everything in terms of food,” Jon Miller, author of the Longitudinal Study of American Youth, and director of the International Center for the Advancement of Scientific Literacy in the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, told TIME Magazine.

The UMich research found that Generation X men cook about eight meals a week and buy groceries more than once a week. By comparison, married women cook the most, about 12 meals a week, and single women prepare about 10. Miller says men “buy into the whole process” and, to acquire skills, watch cooking shows and read cooking articles as often as women.

If unemployment due to the recession led to men generally taking more responsibility for food at home, it may be a silver lining for retailers and CPG, we feel at F3. That’s because as they move from their legendary domain—the backyard barbecue—into a broader kitchen repertoire, they become viable marketing targets for stores and brands. And their mindset, notes the Boston College Center for Work and Family, is “being a good father [relates] just as much with the role of effective caregiver as the traditional role of breadwinner.”

Men may seem stoic in the store, but they have the best interests of their families in mind. To capitalize on their expanding food roles, it will take more research of many male aspects. A few examples:  How do they compare with women in terms of patience, trip and meal planning, impulsiveness, receptivity to marketing messages, wanting to satisfy every member of a household, willingness to shop for value, compare deals, and shop at multiple stores?

F3 believes retailers and brands that achieve balance in their marketing—that is, respecting both genders and offending neither one—will gain the most traction in the years ahead. We think men should be marketed to more, and sophisticated messages should go beyond football and sex appeal and refer to other aspects of their lives—their health, for instance, which some stores and manufacturers have begun to do:

  • Around this past Father’s Day, Sam’s Club gave limited numbers of free screenings for accelerated PSA protein levels, body mass index and blood pressure. The chain has given more than 1 million free screenings since March 2011, said Jill Turner-Mitchell, senior vp-Sam’s Club health and wellness.
  • Abbott and Men’s Health Network surveyed men as part of an initiative to make them less casual about their own health. They found 61% consider themselves “semi-proactive,” minding medical emergencies but not being preventative. Fewer than one-third consider themselves “very knowledgeable” about calorie intake and the potential negative effects of high-sodium diets. F3 thinks marketers can earn loyalty by teaching men to associate better health with better dietary habits.