Fred Wilkinson, Managing Editor
Fred Wilkinson, Managing Editor

A couple of generations ago, Smokey Robinson’s mama told him he better shop around.

Fast-forward several decades and change venues from Smokey’s love life to grocery stores, and it seems Generation Y may be following Ms. Robinson’s advice.

A recent market research report suggests that supermarkets — after many years of tailoring their efforts to cater to the baby boom generation’s demographic bulge — may be in need of a new playbook if they don’t want to lose them to other retail channels.

A recent article details findings from “Trouble in Aisle 5,” a retail study conducted by the Jefferies investment bank and the consulting firm AlixPartners.

The study’s ominous title aside, it does detail some encouraging trends for marketers of fresh fruits and vegetables as the so-called millennial generation (born from 1982 to 2001) increasingly begins to influence the grocery marketplace.

Among those the study lists as “winners”:

  • mass, specialty (ethnic, natural and organic, fresh-focused) and online retailers;
  • natural and organic and specialty distributors;
  • private-label manufacturers;
  • branded natural and organic manufacturers;
  • producers and distributors of perishable items; and
  • manufacturers that tailor products to specific dietary needs and/or general health-focused attributes.

A lot of produce businesses are covered in those half dozen bullet points.

Among the other produce-relevant takeaways from the report is the need for leaner distribution networks that shorten time from farm to fork.

In-store merchandising efforts are mentioned as well, with a recommendation for making top-selling products easy to find and paired with unique products/events to get customers in the store.

Study authors urge retailers to handle more Stock-Keeping Units. Plenty of produce marketers would say “amen” to that, but the reality remains that real estate in the produce aisle is hotly contested.

Branding, too, is key, they say.

More than two out of three customers (especially among millennials) say they will travel farther and/or pay more for a unique product.

According to the report, by 2020 the demographic makeup for the grocery-buying public will result in an annual $50 billion increase in food-at-home spending by millennials and a $10 billion to $15 billion decrease for baby boomers.

Thanks to social media, the younger generation’s trends and enthusiasms are more of an open book than at any time in history.

Marketers are wise to pay attention and listen.

Aisle of man

The New York Post recently had a story about an Upper West Side grocery store using a creative approach to attract a large yet often overlooked market segment — men.

Westside Market NYC boasts a “man aisle.”

The aisle’s product mix is markedly produce-free, including alcohol, toiletries and barbecue sauce among its offerings.

The article notes that nearly a third of men shop for their families, up from 14% in the 1980s.

On top of that, 14 million men (mostly from the ages of 35 to 64) are living alone in the U.S., according to a USA Today report.

The man aisle’s product lineup aside, these guys eat fruits and vegetables. Many should probably be eating more of them.

When was the last time a fresh produce promotion was targeted at men? Other than Mexican avocados teaming up with Coors beer a couple of years ago and maybe some grilling-themed efforts, guys have been mostly overlooked.

There’s opportunity there for marketers who play their cards right.

Sure, there are plenty of health-conscious men who would respond to a nutrition pitch, but that doesn’t mean an appeal to the taste buds should be overlooked.

I’ve seen lettuce and tomatoes cross-promoted with bacon and bread for BLTs.

What about russets and butter? Broccoli and shredded cheese? There are plenty of tasty, easy-to-prepare, cross-promotional combinations that could appeal to single male shoppers.

Maybe it’s time to target these guys with a campaign like, “Fruits and vegetables: They’re good for you, but they don’t have to be.”

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