The “alphabet” generations of X, Y (Millennials), and Z have gotten most of the attention lately from restaurants, food purveyors, and manufacturers. And while they do make up a large portion of consumers, restaurants and companies will do well to remember the 55-and-older consumers who still have a lot of life and eating ahead of them—and a good amount of money to spend. Even as youth culture continues to dominate, the reality of our world population actually getting older will dramatically impact the bottom line of food-based businesses. How retailers respond will determine if the impact is positive or negative.
The greatest shift in the older populate is that it is made up largely of Baby Boomers (with Builders, or the Silent Generation among the eldest). Baby Boomers already are enjoying their golden years far differently from previous generations—not surprising, considering the take-charge, transformative way they’ve lived each stage of life up to retirement. A focus on living to the fullest rather than merely surviving senior adulthood results in emphasizing health, wellness, and fitness. Food choices supporting those goals naturally follow.
Younger generations, full of youthful vim and vigor, tend to compartmentalize health and wellness more so than seniors. “There’s always time to eat better later.” Boomers and Builders aiming to live longer and more fully see health and wellness more holistically, and consistently. Less likely to “cheat” on healthy eating (because life may literally depend on it), they seek to be knowledgeable about their health (and any sickness) and care for their bodies accordingly.
Seniors recognize that time is precious, and they have less ahead than behind. So where they spend their dollars as they spend their time is carefully selected to support their wellbeing. For restauranteurs and other food purveyors, that means providing a great experience from the first visit… and consistently. Boomers won’t waste time on too many do-overs. You have many competitors, and they’ll be choosy.
The size of the aging population is already greater than that of preschoolers, and their growth is on target to soon outpace most of our younger generations. Keeping an eye on trends for the 49-and-under set is certainly important, but seniors remain an extremely important clientele to cater to. Plus, their appetite for healthful food choices doesn’t preclude a touch of adventure. As you understand each of the generations and their preferences, experiment with fusions of tastes, flavors, and nostalgic throwbacks to win over a variety of palates. The Baby Boomers broke the mold from the very beginning, so watching how they age (and buy) with passion and energy will be a preview of what is to come as the generations they raised follow in their footsteps.
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