CHICAGO -- Food retailers and marketers must recognize changes in the ethnic makeup and behavioral patterns of the U.S. population if they are to serve the customer base of the future, according to Marcia Mogelonsky, a researcher and writer who studies demographic trends. "Recognizing demographic trends is as important for the owner of a corner store as it is for the chief executive officer of an international company," she told attendees at an industry trade show.
Among the groups on the rise are single-father households (up 32%); single-mother households (up 15%); and married couples, who account for 52% of all households. The population will continue to grow older and live longer, she said, with some 400,000 people reaching the age of 100 by the year 2025 -- a result of medical advances and healthier lifestyles. Thirty-four percent of the population in 2025 will be 50 or older, she said. On the other end of the spectrum, one of the up-and-coming groups marketers should study is the so-called Generation Y, children who were born during a baby boom that took place from 1990 to 1993. Teens also should not be taken lightly, Mogelonsky said, because they love to shop and almost all their money goes into clothing, food, CDs, movies and dates. The white population will decrease from 75% at present to 52% in 2050, while black, Asian and Hispanic populations become larger, she said. Increasingly, that will mean fewer and fewer people whose primary language is English, she said, and they will be underserved by conventional, mainstream retailers -- including supermarkets.
"There are whole populations that do not understand a word of what we're saying," she said. "Do we want to reach these people, and how do we reach these people?"
In addition to the changes in demographics, changes are taking place in behavior patterns, with a trend away from three square meals toward an increasing propensity for "grazing at a lot of different times."
These patterns will continue to drive the need for convenience, speed and "short-cut cooking" ideas from retailers. Mogelonsky, who is contributing editor at American Demographics magazine, made her presentation at the Food Marketing Institute's annual convention, which was held here earlier this month.