CHICAGO -- Retailers may need to adopt new tactics to attract a new generation of shoppers, according to results of a consumer survey presented at the Food Marketing Institute show last week.
While baby boomers and seniors understand the supermarket, and respond to traditional advertising and promotion tactics, "Generation Y is a whole different ballgame," Michael Sansolo, senior vice president of FMI, said during the Speaks presentation. These consumers, broadly defined as those under the age of 25, get information differently and behave differently than their elders, Sansolo said.
FMI research shows that 33% of Generation Y consumers eat at restaurants three times a week, nearly twice as often as Generation X ahead of them. Unlike older generations, they are less likely to make shopping lists, read supermarket ads, or cut coupons -- staples of the traditional supermarket shopper.
The findings tell of a need for supermarkets to examine their strategies to serve the new generation, said Jerel T. Golub, vice president of perishables at Price Chopper Supermarkets, Schenectady, N.Y. "I can envision a time when Generation Y starts to have children and families. What are we doing as an industry to prepare ourselves for what that's going to look like?" he asked.
"Baby boomers have been our bread-and-butter for so many years, and they'll be retiring soon," Golub added. "What implications might that have?"
Customers over the age of 60 "are people we know well," Sansolo said. "They understand us and we understand them."
Generation Y, Sansolo said, loves food and is willing to experiment, but "wants somebody else to make it for them" because "they didn't grow up in houses where cooking was a way of life. They grew up in houses where mom has usually worked outside the home."
Reaching those shoppers as they mature should challenge supermarkets to address their ad spending, Sansolo said, since Generation Y prefers the Internet and television as sources of information to newspapers, which remain the preferred choice of seniors. Yet, according to Speaks statistics, more than 60% of the supermarket advertising dollar goes to newspapers.
"You have different issues happening with each group [of consumers]. You can't have one kind of ad campaign and hope to get all these folks because they're all different."
Golub called the declining share of meals "a real critical issue that we're going to have to look at square in the eye."
Price Chopper, he said, is striving to offer the right prepared foods that are convenient to shop for, and is working on programs focused on making cooking easier for consumers.
"We feel like we've made a little progress at our company, but I don't feel like we've made enough progress," Golub said. "It's a real opportunity for FMI to step up and take a look at where consumers are headed and make sure that we understand what this industry is going to look like seven or 10 years from now."
Russell Tres Lund III, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Lund Food Holdings, operator of the Byerly's and Lunds Food stores, said his company was "pushing the envelope" in understanding how consumers view prepared foods, noting that for instance, the same shopper tends to choose bagged salads for dinner parties, but will buy leaf lettuce when preparing a meal at home. "We need to get into the 'whys,"' he said.