Food stores, CPG must eye triple-generation households

September 17, 2010

This persistent recession has the sandwich generation of adults living nose to nose with their figurative ‘bread’

This persistent recession has the sandwich generation of adults living nose to nose with their figurative ‘bread’ – grandmas and grandpas are under the same roof with their children and grandchildren, many who’ve come home after college to face grim job prospects. Three generations under one roof create space and food issues.

This is reminiscent of the Depression and post-Depression era, as well as post-World War II when soldiers returned home to be with their wives and kids, but apartment vacancies and homebuilding didn’t meet demand quickly enough and they doubled up with their parents.  

How ingrained is this trend today?  According to the Pew Research Center, 49 million Americans live in households of three or more generations in 2008, representing 16.1% of the U.S. population. By contrast, in 1940, about 32 million Americans or 24.7% of the nation’s populace lived this way.

The pace of the current rise is picking up; these multi-generational households have jumped by 33% over the past decade.

Food retailers and CPG must mind this trend, if they haven’t already focused on it, urges The Lempert Report. Imagine the greater intricacies of planning meals and store trips, the diverse needs and wants existing within the same household, and the desire of chief household shopper to simplify all of this. Clearly, not everyone wants to eat the same kind of food at the same time, and individual work-school-life schedules vary so much that chief household shoppers could use help from stores and brands to bring a sense of order and control.

Stores and brands have real opportunities to offer feasible, value solutions in healthier products, meal planning and organizing tools, in our view. At the same time, marketers should help encourage the passing down of recipes from one generation to the next, and the next, the teaching of cooking to the youngest, the creation of new recipes through experimentation in home kitchens, the sharing of food stories from decades past, and an appreciation for cuisines from native homelands. 

The more food stores and brands can infuse themselves into this multi-generational mix, the more they’ll be relied on and the more differentiated they’ll be within their markets and categories.