Vicky Boyd, Staff Writer
Vicky Boyd, Staff Writer

For the past several years, the U.S. Potato Board has used a target fictitious consumer — Linda — to make marketing plan decisions. Linda is a moderate potato user who likes to cook and prepare healthful dishes for her family.

But you have to wonder, where is her male counterpart — the one who doesn’t use a shopping list, isn’t big on using coupons, is impulsive and favors foods that can be grilled?

Meet Jeff, my answer to Linda. Jeff likes anything outdoors, has a casual outlook on life and knows he should be eating healthier but frequently doesn’t. He gets into moods where he’ll try new foods and cooking new dishes. But most of the time, it’s either sandwiches — if he’s in a rush — or the grill.

How many males like Jeff actually comprise grocery shoppers is hard to determine.

BPN’s 2013 Retail Trends Report estimates the number of male shoppers at 40%, nearly double that of 1980. A 2012 ESPN study found that 31% of grocery shoppers were men.

Regardless, these and other studies show that the number of male grocery shoppers has grown significantly during the past several years.

Men also shop differently and are influenced differently by retail messages than women, according to a 2013 Sullivan Higdon & Sink white paper.

For example, men ranked flavor as one of the most important factors influencing food choices and are much less likely to be influenced by nutrition than women.

The white paper also found that nearly two-thirds of men ranked themselves as good to excellent at grilling compared with only 38% of women.

In addition, men tend not to be influenced by organic, locally produced or health claims.

Based on the findings, the white paper suggests retailers emphasize flavor, downplay emotions, and provide simple, to-the-point instructions.

King of the grill

Although the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee may not have had Jeff or the white paper in mind, their grilling promotion fits the bill. The Parma, Idaho-based group, which promotes onions under the USA Onion label, has had grilling tie-ins for about the past 2½ years, said Sherise Jones, marketing director.

This fall, the group again partnered with Weber Grills for a retail display contest and will carry the grilling theme into the winter during college bowl and National Football League playoff games.

At the Nov. 13, 2013, Boise State University/University of Wyoming football game, for example, Weber grill master Kevin Kolman provided tips during a pre-game grilling competition. The promotion also included grilled onion samples and a Weber grill sweepstakes.

Then Idaho and Oregon onion grower teams fired up for a battle of the barbecues. Each team had to create and grill their own recipes for onions and elk.

USA Onions had six of these barbecue battles during Boise State home games in the fall.

Jones said grilling particularly appeals to males because many feel awkward in the kitchen, but they’re king of the barbecue. Grilling also reduces the number of pots and pans, so “they don’t have to mess up their kitchen,” she said.

Since USA Onions has been conducting the promotion, Jones said it has helped open the door for many of its shipper-members and helped build relationships.

“We recognize there are a lot of buyers who are guys,” she said.

“Doing this grilling promotion has enabled us to have something to talk about.”

Even if grilling isn’t part of your marketing program, Jeff and male consumers like him represent a growing sector that should be included in the conversation.

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