Market Research Shows Baby Boomer Attitudes on CPG Spending, Retail Habits

At 80 million strong, baby boomers are one of the largest demographics in the United States. They spent more than $160 billion on packaged goods last year alone and are just entering their golden years, so their impact on the CPG, retail and health care industries will be felt for years to come. The latest SymphonyIRI Times & Trends Report, “Baby Boomers: Riding the Wave of Diversity,” takes a closer look at this complex market segment and helps CPG marketers understand the current and evolving spending habits of the different boomer segments across categories and channels.

Baby boomers—Americans born between 1946 and 1964—are a very large consumer group with an age range that spans nearly 20 years. For this research, SymphonyIRI breaks the group into two segments: older boomers, born 1946–1955, and younger boomers, born 1956–1964, to capture their distinct cultural experiences, lifestyles and attitudes.

“Boomers will experience a broad range of lifestyle changes in the coming years that will dramatically change where and how they shop for consumer packaged goods and what they buy,” says Susan Viamari, editor, Times & Trends, SymphonyIRI. “The important thing for CPG marketers to remember is that boomers are not a homogeneous group, so sweeping strategies will not be effective. By developing highly targeted marketing strategies that are aligned with the needs of key shoppers and consumers, retailers and manufacturers can create shopping experiences that will win share of spending and ongoing loyalty.”

Category Opportunities

Above-average health care spending by boomers translates to the following significant opportunities for marketers of health care and CPG products that help support health and wellness:

  • Health care: Boomers’ concern around health care cuts across several prevalent health conditions. For instance, 70% of younger boomers and 71% of older boomers feel they are overweight. Boomers also show above average concern with cholesterol and cardiac health. With these statistics in mind, it would serve retailers well to make it easier to find products that help address these conditions in the store. Retailers, such as Walgreens, have done a great job of creating “store within a store” layouts, where products for conditions, such as diabetes management and heart health are grouped together and labeled with shelf tags to help consumers easily locate those products within the store, and there is still plenty of opportunity in this space for additional retailers to mirror or develop their own approach.
  • Skin care: Anti-aging facial products are very popular among boomers and spending on these products jumps significantly between younger and older boomers. Overall, this category has struggled due to the economy, and consumers cutting back on such products. However, as the economy gains momentum and new ingredients and products come to market, skin care marketers have a significant opportunity to renew momentum in this area and to convert facial anti-aging category buyers to the body anti-aging market with messages around value and effectiveness.
  • Food and beverage: Boomers are using healthy eating as a key strategy in their goal to live longer, healthier lives. When it comes to specific food-related behaviors, adoption tends to increase with age. For example, 35% of younger boomers eat whole grains on most days, and 21% of younger boomers consume omega-3 foods or supplements on a daily basis, versus 41% and 27% of older boomers, respectively. There is significant opportunity for CPG marketers to educate boomers on the benefits of consuming these and other wellness-related products, thus building sales as well as goodwill across this important consumer segment.

Shopper Patterns

The following is a glimpse of the channel share, share shifts and department share insights found in the Times & Trends report:

  • Channel share: While the grocery channel holds similar share of spending across older consumer segments, drug and dollar channels demonstrate increasing relevance as consumers age. Still, drug channel retailers hold lower than average share among younger boomers, likely due to particularly low share across sizeable categories, including soap, toothpaste, vitamins and internal analgesics within the younger boomer cohort. In contrast, dollar channel spending among younger boomers is above average across each of these categories.
  • Channel shifts: Grocery share of CPG sales is 48% and 47% among younger boomers and older boomers, respectively. While club channel share is lower, at just over 10%, the channel gained 0.3 share points among shoppers as a whole. Across younger and older boomers, share gains were slightly higher, at 0.5 and 0.6 share points, respectively. Health-related programs, such as Costco’s prescription assistance and health-screening services, are a factor in this success.
  • Department share: Department-level spending trends reveal important points of divergence among this diverse group. For instance, boomers spend 59% of their CPG dollars on center store categories versus 56.5% for the average consumer. Above average spending on carbonated beverages, dog food and chocolate candy contribute to this trend. In a majority of CPG departments, spending mix changes slightly as consumers age. Center store, fresh/perishable and frozen food spending as a percent of total CPG dollars slip slightly, while general merchandise spending inches upward. Spending in beauty/personal care and health care also change, with beauty/personal care spending sliding and health care spending increasing among older cohorts. For instance, the population as a whole spends 5.6% of their CPG dollars on health care, while younger boomers spend 5.1%, and older boomers spend 6.5%.
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