Guiding the 'Looking but Lost'
By Alex Evans, Manny Picciola
How grocers can capitalize on one of the most important demographic groups.
Consumers age 50-plus represent a significant growth opportunity for food manufacturers and grocers that can provide handheld portable foods to fulfill these consumers' cravings for both tasty and healthy food options.
Consumers age 50-plus increasingly want healthy foods that also fit their "on-the-go" lifestyles. This "multitasking mentality" is a major reason that portable foods now account for one-quarter of consumers' daily caloric intake in the United States.
However, our research shows that 50-plus consumers are often either confused or skeptical about the health claims that they find on store shelves. This demographic represents a significant growth opportunity for food manufacturers and grocers that can provide handheld portable foods to fulfill these consumers' cravings for both tasty and healthy food options.
Roadmap for Guidance
Manufacturers are slowly responding to this growing demand from older consumers with an array of health-oriented foods packaged with varying marketing claims. And the influx of new health-oriented products is only adding to consumer uncertainty regarding which products to buy. L.E.K. finds that nearly 45 percent of grocery consumers surveyed say that purchasing healthy foods is a priority, but they're not sure which products are right for them.
This uncertainty can be caused by confusion regarding the specific benefits that many brands are trying to convey and skepticism about the credibility of these health claims. We call this vast market segment "Looking but Lost." Despite such misgivings, however, this demographic still generally prefers to purchase foods with reported health benefits rather than supplement their diets significantly with nutraceuticals.
Here are two ways to capitalize on this underserved market:
• Change the In-store Experience: To help persuade the "Looking but Lost" and other interested customers, brands need to determine which key benefits they want to spotlight to make it easier for consumers to understand the health proposition for each product. But brand messaging alone isn't enough to influence consumers.
L.E.K. research also shows that the in-store experience is critical to consumers' purchasing decisions of healthy portable foods. Some grocers are taking a more deliberate role in guiding consumers through color-coded information about ingredients and the health conditions that products may address (both within stores and online). Others use signage and product placement to showcase their health-focused offerings, such as positioning healthy foods adjacent to the produce section. Additional strategies include creating healthy food "destination aisles" or placing healthy foods in the center of the store to make them easier for consumers to find, or introducing store dietitians or convenient combination supermarket/pharmacy formats.
• Increasing Collaboration Between Manufacturers and Grocers: A coordinated promotional campaign that encourages consumers to try products while educating them is integral to the success of health-oriented foods. Kellogg, for example, teamed with grocery retailers to provide consumers with free health screenings and health education information, as well as promotional items. The program's in-store promotions included coupons and product samples. Kellogg also tailored this program to meet the needs of Hispanic consumers. Today, Kellogg continues to promote individual products by specific health attributes.
Alex Evans and Manny Picciola are VPs of L.E.K. Consulting. They can be contacted at email@example.com.
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