Potato marketers neglect consumer diversity - The Packer

Potato marketers neglect consumer diversity

03/29/2013 09:04:00 AM
Tara Schupner

This focus on Linda overlooks the fact that single people also cook. Married women cook 12 meals a week; single GenX women, 10 meals a week; and single GenX men, eight meals a week, according to a 2012 University of Michigan Institute for Social Research report. That means singletons are cooking 60% of those weekly meals.

This mindset is also out of touch with the broader reality of modern America. Linda is far from comprising 40% of the American population, or even of women in her age group.

Family structures are changing. Marriage rates plummeted almost 20 percentage points from 1960 to 2011, to 51%, according to the Pew Research Center.

In 2009, the percentage of families with children hit its lowest point in 50 years, at 46%, according to USA Today. That leaves not only singletons, but also quite a number of couples — married and unmarried — with shoppers and cooks who are not Lindas.

I don’t even need to detail the sweeping ethnic changes. Even as America is becoming more colorful, all the photos accompanying the “Real Moms/Real Meals” posts on potatogoodness.com are of white women.

Kate Thompson, senior research manager with the Sterling Rice Group, which does marketing research for the board, calls Linda “fairly traditional.” But in these times and climes, “traditional” smacks of June Cleaver — completely at odds with where O’Connor thinks potatoes should be in public perception.

Fragments of the board’s own research suggest where it can make course corrections. Its use survey found that potatoes gained a share of overall U.S. dinners in 2012 (30%, up from 28% in 2011), but held steady for Lindas at 30%.

This indicates there’s fertile ground and a wealth of opportunities for the board to diversify its marketing.

The board has snazzed up its recipes, incorporating international, exotic flavors. But it does so in order to appeal to what it views as Linda’s “changing tastes,” rather than to America’s changing demographics.

The board’s marketing team needs to recognize that potatoes and creative recipes appeal to diverse groups, and market them accordingly.

As O’Connor told attendees at the meeting, it’s important to change how consumers view potatoes.

It’s also important for the potato board to change how it views consumers.


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Denise Donohue    
DeWitt, Michigan  |  April, 07, 2013 at 02:59 PM

Tara - This is very bold and very thought-provoking. I believe you are right. The primary thing I can think of in defense of Linda is that you have to start somewhere, and if Linda/June is the biggest chunk of the consumer market, then it does make sense to start with her as the low-hanging fruit (already buying potatoes). But there ought to be mention of coming plans for the next 60 percent, to your point. Verrry interesting commentary.

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