No, not the specter of a merciless tide of political mudslinging for the next five months.
I’m talking about the much slower, but more insidious aging of the population.
Despite all the talk of consumer trends and preferences, market segmentation and targeted marketing as the levers that manipulate business and commerce, nothing is more powerful than demographics. Here’s why.
Those of us who proudly (or covertly) proclaim ourselves as Baby Boomers are worse than teen-agers. We figure we’ll live forever, and we’ll do—or spend—whatever it takes, whatever it costs, to thwart the march of time.
But we’re witnessing an explosion of the elderly, with the fastest growing population cohort being people 85 and older.
By 2030, when all Boomers will be over 65, there will be approximately 15 million U.S. residents older than 85, according to Older Americans 2010, a report from the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics.
Overall, by mid-century there will be 72 million seniors 65 or older representing more than 20% of the population.
Most business leaders and market researchers have focused on such obvious impacts as the health-care costs associated with an aging population—understandably so, given the daunting statistics:
Annual health care costs for seniors now averages nearly $20,000
Obesity has increased among people 65 and over to nearly one-third of that age group
Heart disease remains the leading killer of people over 65, with cancer, respiratory diseases and Alzheimer’s disease the other leading causes of death
Type 2 diabetes, various cancers, asthma, osteoarthritis and disability have become critical health issues requiring increasingly expensive treatment
Among people 85 and older, 34% have no natural teeth
Collectively, aging represents a monumental wave of social change. But when it comes to food marketing, there are a multitude of studies, surveys and statistics outlining the scope of such trends as the decline of the two-parent, two-and-a-half kids family, the emergence of ethnic, fusion and multicultural menus and the relentless pressure to provide ever more “convenience” in food choices and preparation requirements as they affect meat and poultry consumption.
But how is the even more pervasive—and powerful—aging of America going to affect meat consumption?
That’s a subject less visited.
Older and choosier
We’ve read and heard plenty about the lifestyles of so-called SPUDs—Single Person Urban Dwellers—as they affect meat consumption:
Less tied to traditional products, less interested in cooking at mealtime, more willing to embrace vegetarian alternatives.
But for the most part, they’re depicted as younger, more mobile and more likely over time to evolve their eating patterns even further.
SPUDs are the consumer segment over which new product marketers tend to salivate.
But consider the impact of millions of people reaching retirement age in the next few decades.
Many of these might not fit the classic definition of a SPUD, but indeed they will be predominantly single and living in cities, especially true for the older age cohorts.
What does that mean for meat marketers?
One intriguing answer came from an unlikely source, a beef industry forum in Biggenden, a crossroads town in Queensland’s cattle country about 200 Ks north of Brisbane, sponsored by Meat and Livestock Australia, a public-private marketing group funded by both taxpayer and checkoff dollars.
At the forum, MLA’s marketing manager, Andrew Cox, explained that the proportion of people over 65 will double Down Under in the next 30 years.
“That is one of the most immediate trends to affect consumption,” Cox said. “We know that the amount of meat older people consume decreases, but we also know that they’re prepared to pay more for quality product.”
That is a simple statement with profound implications.
Along with tentative efforts to address portion sizing and (less so) packaging, few meat or poultry processors have fully embraced a strategy of providing the reduced quantity/higher quality to which Cox referred...
Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.
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