5: FOR THE BIRDS

All the concern about animal welfare is expressing itself in many a back yard these days. Supermarket sales of wild birdseed typically stocked in the produce department or pet aisle came in at around $108 million for the past two calendar years, according to ACNielsen. Seed purchases at food stores are not at the top of the consumer pecking order, but that could change as retailers stock higher-quality

All the concern about animal welfare is expressing itself in many a back yard these days. Supermarket sales of wild birdseed — typically stocked in the produce department or pet aisle — came in at around $108 million for the past two calendar years, according to ACNielsen. Seed purchases at food stores are not at the top of the consumer pecking order, but that could change as retailers stock higher-quality seed and commit to year-round promotions.

“A lot of retailers haven't upgraded their seed selections, and much of what they have is buried most of the year on the shelf,” said Mike Wulf, national sales manager for D&D Commodities, a seed processor in St. Louis.

Bird feeding is the nation's No. 2 home-based hobby, behind gardening. Research by the Wild Bird Feeding Industry, a Sioux Falls, S.D.-based trade organization, shows that well-educated women over the age of 40 are the primary practitioners.

“Empty nesters are also inclined to be bird feeders,” said Susan Hays, executive director of the WBFI Research Foundation. “We also find a lot of home schoolers that are bird feeders, because they can be an instructive science project for kids.”

Baby boomers, too, figure into the growth pattern. As a generation intent on staying independent rather than moving to elder housing, they're more likely to keep their homes, and therefore, their back yards.

Supermarkets might find all of this something to crow about.