“Don’t forget about baby boomers” when marketing foods, IRI analyst cautions

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

“Don’t forget about baby boomers” when marketing foods, IRI cautions
Food marketers increasingly are training their crosshairs on millennials whose purchasing power is growing quickly, but they should not overlook baby boomers, who spend the most of any generation on snacks and sweets, according to analysis of sales data by IRI Worldwide.

“We are hearing a lot about millennials, but don’t forget about baby boomers,”​ said Larry Levin, executive VP of industry insights at IRI Worldwide, told attendees at the Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago May 21.

In the last 52 weeks ending April 19, baby boomers spent about twice as much money on snacks and sweets as millennials and about four times that of seniors, and yet marketers increasingly are focused on millennials because the amount they spend on candy and snacks is growing more quickly than any other generation, he explained.

Specifically, he noted 46% of candy sales in the last year came from baby boomers, who spent $9.9 billion on confections compared to only $4.1 billion from millennials, which is worth about 19% of US candy sales, Levin said.

Similarly, boomers spent more on snacks than millennials, to the tune of $14.6 billion versus $8.2 billion by millennials, he added.

The share of money for snacks and treats boomers spend on candy also is significantly more than the share millennials dedicate to candy at 40.4% for boomers verses 33.3% for millennials, according to IRI data.

Levin explains boomers likely are more drawn to candy than millennials for nostalgic reasons. Also, he notes, millennials tend to favor healthier food, which is more concentrated in snacks versus sweets.

Millennials’ increasing influence

While boomers should not be ignored, Levin understands marketers’ fascination with millennials. He explained millennials understandably garner much attention because the growth they contribute to sales of snacks and sweets outpaces that of other generations.

The younger generation contributed 12% growth in CPG dollar volume for snacks last year compared to 2% by boomers, 0% by generation X and -4% by seniors, according to IRI sales data. On the candy side, millennials contributed 6% growth, followed by 4% from boomers, 2% from generation X and -3% by seniors.

Millennials’ purchasing power in snacks and sweets is even more sharply underscored when cast in a dollar amount of basket sales, according to IRI data.

“When candy is in the basket for millennial shoppers, the basket rings up an average of $64. When it is not in the  basket, it is only $44,”​ Levin said.

The impact is “even more profound when you look at it among millennials and snacks,”​ with the average millennial spend per visit on baskets with snacks reaching $77.70 compared to only $38.50 when snacks are not in basket, Levin added.

Tailoring messages for generations

Marketers trying to capitalize on the different demands of each generation can do so by playing up the different claims that appeal to each group, Levin said.

Consumers aged 25-34 years old are more likely to respond to claims that foods are organic, high protein and hormone- or GMO-free than consumers aged 55-64 years old, Levin noted. Alternatively, boomers are more likely than millennials to respond to claims that a product is gluten free, all natural or has high fiber.

Marketing for millennials will be more successful in digital formats than in print media, and also will be more successful if it focuses on bold flavors and innovations, Levin said.

Messaging to boomers should focus on fun, innovation and treats for families, which also will become increasingly important to millennials as they age, expand their families and become less dependent on their parents, Levin concluded.

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