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The Supply Side: More men in the grocery aisle, opportunity for brands

story by Kim Souza
ksouza@thecitywire.com

Editor’s note: The Supply Side section of The City Wire focuses on the companies, organizations, issues and individuals engaged in providing products and services to retailers. The Supply Side is managed by The City Wire and sponsored by Propak Logistics.

Men today have dropped the book on traditional roles and picked up the household shopping list, according to a recent study by Defy Media. “The Acumen Report: Brand New Man,” found that 65% of respondents said they now hold the primary shopping responsibility for the household.

About 54% said they shop for groceries and household supplies more than their spouse. An interesting finding in the study was a growing number of men (50%) said their spouses do not tell them what brands to buy and about that many said they ask family and friends for recommendations about certain products

Jason Long, CEO of Shift Marketing Group, said suppliers can’t afford to miss this demographic opportunity, yet many of the shopper marketing data still target female consumers.

Carol Spieckerman, CEO of NewMarketBuilders, said multiple studies that revealed the degree to which women influence purchases, even those that are made by men, created a “better safe than sorry” mentality among brands and retailers. She said the logic assumed that men would not be put off by female-centric marketing in non-gender-specific categories so the rewards would outweigh any risks. As a result, many retailers and brands have gone too far.

“I’m surprised by how many retailers refer to their customers as ‘she’ and ‘her,’ for example, and when feminized language is institutionalized, you have to believe that it marginalizes male customers in the end,” Spieckerman said. “The answer isn’t for the pendulum to swing too far back, though, as Burger King, Go Daddy and others have learned the hard way. Female-focused marketing may not offend men, but a big push in the opposite direction can get brands into trouble.”

CULTURAL SHIFT
“About 35% of men don’t have a significant other, many are marrying later,” Long said. “They routinely shop for what they need and that continues even after they get married.”

The average age of a marrying male today is 29, versus 25 in the 1980s. About 43% of the men between the ages 18 to 49 live with a spouse, and 22% live with parents. That leaves 35% of men flying solo when it comes to making brand decisions and filling up the shopping cart.

Long said the explosion in cable programming geared toward men in recent years shows the tremendous market potential that has has more or less snuck up on suppliers and the retail sector.

INFORMAL SURVEY
An informal survey by The City Wire found 66% of respondents who said the male in the household does nearly all of the grocery shopping, and at least some of the cooking.

“(My husband) Lynn does mostly all of the grocery shopping, I couldn’t tell you the last time I actually bought more than a loaf of bread and milk,” Jana Isabel noted in her response to the The City Wire survey. The Isabel’s reside in east Texas.

The same was true for Kim Borrelli, a Texas banker who said her husband Joe does 100% of the grocery shopping and 75% of the cooking.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way, I love it,” Kim Borrelli said. 

Rod Coleman of Fort Smith also does most his family’s shopping for as long as daughter Elizabeth Coleman Voris can remember. 

“I do most of the shopping for us because I'm a stay at home mom and Justin just doesn't have the time with his job,” Voris said of her own household.

David Reese said he enjoys the grocery shopping and is always looking for an excuse to run to the store. Reese owns a real estate business and was raised in the grocery business.

Each of these respondents, except Voris are boomers but the two surveys found Gen X and Millennial men also prefer shopping more when time allows. Ashley Lemley, 28, of Fort Smith said her husband James does the grocery shopping and 99% of the cooking, Tim Sabo a Gen X executive from Dallas, said he also does most of the grocery shopping for his family of four.

INSIGHTS REVEALED
The Defy Media report outlined four key ideas about how men approach a new brand relationship. They refer to these as the 4 - E’s: Exposure, Education, Experimentation, and Eureka.

The first three E’s largely involve marketing. The research indicates men rely heavily on the information provided by brands to get them though the process. Researchers said suppliers can jump-start a man’s journey to a new brand relationship by giving him a reason to seek a new brand; educating him about the brands and product categories; catching his eye at the point-of-sale; and offering ways for him to evangelize the brands he loves.

Creating a need is key as researchers note that without a compelling new need, men have no motivation to change the brands they use. Many of the respondents said they consider seeking a new brand a drag, especially given the numbers of brands from which to choose.

Defy said men can and do ask for directions and they research products online. The biggest influencer of men in the Defy report was recommendations from friends and family, followed closely by advertising and coupons. Nearly 40% said they became aware of a brand after first trying it at friend’s house. About one-third said the brands they use are closely linked to those used by their parents, but just as many said they found new brands via social media.

THE EUREKA MOMENT
Once brand awareness occurs, researchers said men are quite comfortable “buying and trying.” The men interviewed said they love getting a deal, because they can experiment with little risk, the study noted.

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Researchers said a guy won’t buy a product just because it’s on sale — there has to a need — and if the new product disappoints, he is unlikely to buy it again, even if it’s on sale. Men also can be enticed by advertising that speaks to them. More than half of the Defy study respondents said they had bought and tried a new beer because of the advertising.

The Eureka phase means that he has found a brand to love. Research shows that when a male shopper reaches the Eureka phase they are very likely to tell their friends and family. The survey found 79% had recommended beer, other beverages and snacks were recommended by 53% and 56%, respectively.

Spieckerman said most consumer brands are still erring on the side of female-centric marketing but she likes the way some retail concepts are taking a fresh and relevant approach to men.

“French apparel retailer, Loding, which just opened its first North American store in Toronto is a great example. Loding offers no promotions, sales or discounts and simplifies decision-making by pricing every item in a category (shirts, belts, shoes, etc.) at the same price regardless of style and even quality. Instead of using gimmicks or risky marketing strategies, Loding looked at how men like to shop and served up a solution,” Spieckerman said.

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