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Dude, where’s your strategy?

Food retailers and manufacturers love women shoppers. But they couldn’t care less about men. Sounds to me like a missed opportunity

If aliens visiting Earth spent a few hours watching TV commercials, they’d quickly get the idea that women make all of the household grocery decisions. Most food ads, after all, are aimed at women. It’s like guys don’t even exist.

There’s a perfectly logical reason for it, of course. Women plan nearly 80% of dinners, and they prepare just over three quarters of them. When it comes to what we eat, the power of the purse has stayed with just that—the purse.

But what about the guys? They make up 49% of the population. And it’s not like you never see a man behind a grocery cart. In fact, neglecting Joe Consumer is a missed opportunity to grow your business.

To understand how humongous that opportunity is, let’s compare the eating habits of men and women. The typical Canadian woman eats more often than the average man—approximately 10% more often. Why? A couple of reasons: first, men are more likely to skip both breakfast and lunch. Second, women snack a lot. In a given year, the average woman consumes 50 more snack meals than her male counterpart.

I know what you’re thinking now. If women both plan and consume more meals, why bother with men at all? Quite simply, closing the gap in meals eaten by men and women is a huge opportunity for grocers and manufacturers to drive incremental sales. If the gap were closed by half, it would equal an additional 700 million meals per year.

So how do you reach men? Let’s first understand what they want. We’re all familiar with the saying “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” To some extent that’s true. Men worry less about their weight than women. Only 13% of Canadian men say they’re on a diet, versus 20% of women. Men are also less inclined to count calories.

The differing attitudes toward food show up in what men and women eat. The average Canadian guy consumes a lot of pizzas, burgers, fries, soft drinks and be—
foods hardly regarded as “light.” Women, on the other hand, eat more foods conducive to losing weight, such as fruit, vegetables and yogurt.

It’s not that men aren’t concerned about health. Many are. But they clearly have a taste for certain foods, and their preferences reveal what will motivate them to buy. Men like their foods fatty; and don’t hold the salt.

Knowing all this should help you understand how your products and your marketing and merchandising strategies can be tailored to reach men. I recommend doing a bit of brainstorming, starting with these three main questions:

1 Do you know what portion of your shoppers are men? If it’s significant, how are you factoring men into your strategic thinking, marketing tactics and product development?

2 Are you in a position to increase the number of men who use your products? Perhaps you can make this happen through product line extensions, redesigned packaging or new merchandising approaches.

3 Since women do most of the shopping, do you have a plan to help men influence the purchasing decision-making? For instance, some manufacturers focus on getting children to influence what goes on the shopping list. Can you use a similar strategy for men?

Building your business with one very large target group (women) is one way to drive growth. Where appropriate, expanding your target is another way. So make sure you’re not forgetting about the other 49% of the population when crafting your marketing and merchandising strategies.

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