Succeeding with health-driven mature consumers

January 12, 2012

Older shoppers, feeling disappointed, tell where retailers and CPG are falling short of their needs.

Retailers and brand marketers should be all smiles when they discuss the demographic swell of aging Boomers.

Why not?

Their expansion is geometric – from 200 million people worldwide in 1950 to 600 million by 2000, to 800 million by 2010, and projected to reach 2 billion by 2050, said World Population Aging, the United Nations Report on Economic and Social Affairs, which A.T. Kearney cited in its new White Paper, What Do Mature Consumers Want.

In the United States alone, people who are 60 and reaching that milestone soon (50+ in 2011) will control more than half of the projected $706 billion spent on grocery in 2015, stated the McKinsey U.S. Aging Consumer Initiative.

Yet satisfying them will be a key to supermarket growth for years to come – since they’re growing at a rate of 2.6% per year, more than twice the 1.2% pace of the annual population growth overall, calculated the UN report, which also cited lower recent birth rates.

It will take new approaches. The A.T. Kearney report cites disappointments felt by older shoppers – among them the inability to navigate large stores, too many products beyond their easy reach on either high or low shelves, hard-to-open product packages, and hard-to-read labels, prices and directions. Consumers polled by the consultancy also noted the lack of rest spots, understaffed stores and a lack of knowledge by store staff. “On the whole, mature consumers want and expect a sympathetic understanding of the realities of age, but they do not want to be treated as old or elderly,” the study summed up.

As older shoppers grow more important to the food industry, retailers and CPG manufacturers need to understand their desire for better health – which means they’ll continue to look to make smarter, better-informed food purchases in comfortable settings.

This is keeping people healthier longer. “Once an adult has reached the age of 60, he she can expect 13 more years of full health in India, 15 more years in China, 19 more years in the U.S. and 21 more years in Japan….They spend a higher proportion of their incomes on food and drink than those under 60,” noted A.T. Kearney, citing the World Health Organization.  That’s significant in the U.S., since the over-50s own 80% of U.S. financial assets and half of the discretionary income.

Could there be a better incentive for retailers and CPG to address the needs of aging Boomers? F3 doesn’t think so.

Neither, it seems, does A.T. Kearney, which declared, “The agequake may require a paradigm shift in the design of stores and retail chains as aging shoppers – with up to 30% spending power – have entirely different needs."

Other insights from the A.T. Kearney study of 2,947 people older than 60 in 23 countries:

•    They enjoy shopping as a social and leisure experience offering physical activity

•    They prefer to shop on weekdays, often early in the mornings when stores are less busy

•    The older they are, the more they prefer smaller stores and shopping closer to home

•    They seek quality products, are loyal to brands, and not particularly price-sensitive