Men Shop For Groceries. Marketing World Overreacts.

January 11, 2012

More guys are responsible for household grocery shopping. That doesn't mean grocery stores need to go out and change things, though.

I confess, I love grocery shopping.

No, really. I enjoy the actual process of going to the grocery store, pushing a cart up and down the aisles under the bright glow of buzzing halogen lights, picking out my favorite staples, perusing the best deals, trying a new item or two. I enjoy bagging my own groceries, as I did for my first job at age 14. I enjoy going home and filling the cupboards and refrigerator with my haul.

Strange as it sounds, grocery shopping brings me a sense of accomplishment.

Last weekend, I read that I’m no exception at all, but rather a member of the fastest growing demographic in food retail. According to Emily Bryson York of the Chicago Tribune, more men are taking on the role of head grocery shopper in their household and marketers are taking notice:

“Experts say the trend has been building slowly for decades … The recession has hit men disproportionately with layoffs and left many of them home to manage the household.

 

“The nation’s biggest food and personal-products manufacturers are taking notice, attempting to market products and adjust store layouts to cater to men.

 

“It’s a paradigm shift for the $560 billion retail food industry that has patently referred to the primary customer as “she,” focusing marketing and advertising firepower on women, and mothers in particular – sometimes making fun of dads in the process.”

Some of the changes, though subtle, have already taken place among mega retailers. For instance, most Target stores now keep all men’s toiletries to a single aisle, so I’m not left to plod through the glut of female soaps, lotions, hairsprays, shaving cream, and, well, you get the picture. That just seems logical, though, and not an intentional reaction to shifting demographics.

Isolating personal care products by gender is one thing, but should these findings really transform the food retail experience?

In the story, Brian Calpino, vice president of breakthrough innovation at Kraft Foods, makes a wildly misinformed assertion that men and women shop differently simply based on gender: “The mindset has been that she shops, she really knows every inch of the store, she is really organized, has a list, is in a huge hurry … We talk to a lot of these millennial guys about shopping, and the biggest headline is they’re not as structured, not as hurried, much more experimental, more adventurous.”

My idea of being “experimental” and “adventurous” is buying Cocoa Puffs and chocolate milk. What’s this guy talking about?

Bryson York’s story cites two surveys that capture the surging male demographic in grocery stores:

  • “Consumer-research firm GfK MRI and ESPN found 31 percent of men (18 to 50) nationwide the primary household grocery shoppers in 2011 – up from 14 percent in 1985.”
  • “A nationwide survey of 1,000 fathers conducted by Yahoo and market research firm DB5 said early this year 51 percent were the primary grocery shoppers in their households.”

The increase in men took place as grocery stores were, I assume, constructed and arranged for the female shopper.

Don’t go a-changing, food retail. You’re great just the way you are.