In as little as three years? time, older consumers will have become the mainstream market in the UK, accounting for over half of expenditure on food, drink and household products – a revelation that has significant implications for food manufacturers who must ensure that they cater for this increasingly important sector of society.
The Older Consumer, a new report from Reuters Business Insight and TNS, reveals that by 2006, the over 55s will account for a staggering £53 billion of what is predicted to be a £104.4 billion market for food, drink and household goods.
But the report also shows that most marketers of these products are failing to reach older consumers effectively. A panel of 15,000 UK households questioned for the report reveals that just one in six older consumers say they buy a product just because it is advertised ? some 60 per cent merely fast-forward through the adverts on programmes they video.
According to the report, older consumers shop five times a week ? compared to 3.5 times a week for younger consumers ? preferring to shop around more and plan their purchases. However, they spend on average £10 when they go shopping, compared to £14 for under 55s.
One interesting revelation from the report is the fact that older consumers spend more on take home alcohol than their younger counterparts ? some £44 a head more in fact. Yet most drinks marketers are focused on attracting younger drinkers with products such as FABs or bottled lager or complaining that their products (such as whisky) only appeal to older drinkers.
The report also shows that older consumers in the UK are far more concerned about the ?Britishness? of what they buy than the younger generation. This is why, for example, almost half of over 55s will have a traditional roast dinner at home at the weekend ? far more than most young people ? and why 50 per cent of older consumers claim to buy British wherever they can, compared to just 28 per cent from the younger generation.
Other findings show that older consumers plan more, are more willing to pay for quality and enjoy cooking for themselves more. They are more open to organic, environmentally friendly and free range products than younger consumers, and more likely to avoid genetically modified foods.
The over 55s tend to trust more in established brands, according to the RBI/TNS report, but are only slightly more likely than under 55s to stick with a brand that they like. Brands that are very popular among the over 55s include PG Tips, Kit Kat, Silver Spoon and Tetley Tea.
However, a massive belt of brands are more age-neutral, including big names such as Persil, McVitie’s and Hovis. These brands are the battleground of the future, according to the report: demographics are forcing up the average age of their consumers and what used to be ‘family brands’ have a significant audience that no longer fit the traditional mould.
But with a UK population that is living longer than ever before, brand marketers face a difficult challenge. Consumers are now more likely to continue to buy the same brands throughout their lifetime, with the report showing that just a third of the over 55s enjoy trying new brands compared to 43 per cent of the under 55s.
This is perhaps partially because marketers have traditionally failed to target older consumers ? a fact reflected by the revelation that only one in six older consumers say they buy a product often because it is advertised.
Marketers may decide that targeting consumers when they are young, and then keeping them throughout their lives, is a more effective way of spending their advertising pounds, but the report suggests that a marketing policy designed to appeal to older consumers could help companies reap significant rewards.
“Just as with the mainstream market, the ?grey? market is fragmenting rapidly. For marketers, the consumers’ age is only important in the context of other considerations such as consumer health, attitudes, disposable income and lifestyle. Marketers still have much to learn about senior consumers, and manufacturers have a lot to gain from getting it right,? said Ben Longman, Reuters Business Insight consumer analyst.