US: Major food brands go after a once-ignored customer: Men

In the race to attract consumers, major American food companies are tweaking their playbooks to go after a once-ignored group: men.

Men are now the primary grocery shoppers in about four in 10 households. But men, food companies have found, have their own priorities. They often do not look closely at prices or carry a coupon book. They want to get in and out of the store quickly. Men are also more likely to be enticed by bold flavours and high-protein meals, companies have found.

Just as retailers have made efforts to reach a wider, more diverse audience of shoppers — including a larger Hispanic population and millennial-generation consumers with more adventurous tastes — men too have become a bigger priority.

“We always thought that if we speak to the gal, we’ll eventually get to the guy because she’ll bring the hot dogs into the household, and the household will consume,” said Kristin Kroepfl, director of marketing for Ball Park. But in the past year, Kroepfl says, they’ve started reaching out to male consumers more directly, “in a voice that’s bold and confident and a little bit more manly than we’ve been in the past.”

In their campaign to reach men, many food companies are pushing boundaries. Kraft Foods recently began featuring men in TV commercials for its Jell-O, Velveeta and Miracle Whip brands, products it historically marketed largely to women.

Diane Tielbur, Kraft’s senior director of consumer insights, said its customer research has shown that men are cooking and shopping in greater numbers and that the ads are part of an effort to reach them.

Industry analysts and food companies say a variety of factors are bringing today’s men into the supermarket: Because women are 47 percent of the labour force, the division of all manner of household chores is being reconfigured in many two-parent families. Meanwhile, non-traditional households consisting of single people or roommates are growing at a faster clip than traditional ones.

The influx of men at grocery stores is difficult to measure. Market research firm NPD Group recently found that men are the primary grocery shoppers in 41 percent of US households. It had not asked the question in previous surveys. But some food companies say internal research indicates that men are increasingly doing the grocery shopping.

One way of responding has been to introduce new flavours…..

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