WASHINGTON, DC — October 16, 2001 — Generations X and Y in the U.S. seek convenience, prepared foods and specialty products from their supermarket, whereas older Americans demand premium customer service and low prices, according to a new white paper, The Generation Gap, from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI). The paper was derived from data in FMI’s annual Trends in the United States: Consumer Attitudes & the Supermarket, 2001.

The Generation Gap takes a closer look at the shopping habits of American consumers over 65 years old and those between 15 and 24 years old – the country’s two largest population segments. Although many differences exist between the two groups, there are some commonalties.

“Supermarkets today face the challenge of expanding their service and product mix to appeal to a larger and more diverse customer base,” said Janice Jones, director of research at FMI. “What we see from this study is that two large population segments in the U.S. make up nearly one-fourth of the customer base, and food retailers must be able to provide the range of products and services that each of these population segments is seeking in a grocery setting."

Although both groups seek high quality meats and produce and a clean store, they differ in the specific attributes sought from their primary supermarket. While, younger shoppers look for features such as natural and organic items, ethnic and gourmet foods, prepared foods and a
quick checkout, older Americans view the availability of frequent shopper programs, an in-store pharmacy, private label/store brand products and sale items to be critical in their selection of a primary supermarket. They also value courteous and friendly employees and place a strong emphasis on a store’s active involvement in the community.

The importance of convenience to younger shoppers is most often expressed through meal preparation. Younger shoppers tend to use short cuts such as bagged salads, marinated meats, and pre-cut/pre-cleaned vegetables much more often (45 percent) than older shoppers(29 percent). Younger shoppers (34 percent) also tend to eat take-out or delivery meals at least once a week – twice as often as older shoppers. Forty-five percent of younger shoppers also report eating out at fast food and full service restaurants at least once a week, and 14 percent report eating out at least three times a week. Only 27 percent of older shoppers eat out once a week and only 6 percent eat out three or more times a week or more.

“Younger shoppers have different priorities than their elders,” said Jones. “Time is their most precious commodity, and they are much less willing to spend a lot of time preparing and consuming a meal. Eating on the go is a part of their lifestyle, unlike older consumers, who prefer more traditional, cost-effective meals.”

The study also shows a significant difference in the types of store formats that each is willing to shop in. Older shoppers are much more loyal to one store, usually a standard-sized supermarket, but they may shop around for specials at different stores. Younger shoppers are more likely to turn to other store formats for groceries, including warehouse-style club stores   (16 percent shop there fairly often or every time they shop) and discount stores (40 percent of younger shoppers versus 20 percent of older shoppers).

Interestingly, both of these groups have the lowest household incomes of all age groups. However, younger shoppers still spend more on average at the store ($99) than the total shopper population ($91). Older shoppers spend less per week than all populations ($59.40).

Like other population segments, the majority of shoppers in both groups are women: 71 percent of younger shoppers and 80 percent of older shoppers.

To purchase The Generation Gap($10 FMI members/ $25 nonmembers) or for more information, please contact FMI Publication and Video Sales at (202) 452-8444 or visit the FMI website at www.fmi.org.