WASHINGTON -- Generations X and Y in the United States seek convenience, prepared foods and specialty products from their supermarket, whereas older Americans demand premium customer service and low prices, according to a new white paper, "The Generation Gap," from the Food Marketing Institute here.
ments, according to the FMI. The report notes that although many differences exist between the two groups, there are some commonalties.
Commented Janice Jones, director of research at FMI, "Supermarkets today face the challenge of expanding their service and product mix to appeal to a larger and more diverse customer base.
"What we see from this study is that two large population segments in the U.S. make up nearly one-fourth of the customer base, and food retailers must be able to provide the range of products and services that each of these population segments is seeking in a grocery setting."
Although both groups seek high-quality meats and produce and a clean store, they differ in the specific attributes sought from their primary supermarket, the report said.
It noted that while younger shoppers look for features such as natural and organic items, ethnic and gourmet foods, prepared foods and a quick checkout, older Americans view the availability of frequent shopper programs, an in-store pharmacy, private-label/store brand products and sale items to be critical in their selection of a primary supermarket.
They also value courteous and friendly employees and place a strong emphasis on a store's active involvement in the community, according to the report.
The importance of convenience to younger shoppers is most often expressed through meal preparation, it noted.
Younger shoppers tend to use shortcuts such as bagged salads, marinated meats and precut/precleaned vegetables much more often (45%) than older shoppers (29%).
Younger shoppers (34%) also tend to eat take-out or delivery meals at least once a week -- twice as often as older shoppers, the report observed.
Forty-five percent of younger shoppers also report eating out at fast-food and full-service restaurants at least once a week, and 14% report eating out at least three times a week. Only 27% of older shoppers eat out once a week and only 6% eat out three or more times a week.
"Younger shoppers have different priorities than their elders," said Jones. "Time is their most precious commodity, and they are much less willing to spend a lot of time preparing and consuming a meal.
"Eating on the go is a part of their lifestyle, unlike older consumers, who prefer more traditional, cost-effective meals."
The study also shows a significant difference in the types of store formats that each is willing to shop in. Older shoppers are much more loyal to one store, usually a standard-sized supermarket, but they may shop around for specials at different stores. Younger shoppers are more likely to turn to other store formats for groceries, including warehouse-style club stores (16% shop there fairly often or every time they shop) and discount stores (40% of younger shoppers vs. 20% of older shoppers).
The report noted that these two groups have the lowest household incomes of all age segments.
However, younger shoppers still spend more on average at the store ($99) than the total shopper population ($91). Older shoppers spend less per week than all populations ($59.40).
As in other population segments, the majority of shoppers in both groups are women: 71% of younger shoppers and 80% of older shoppers.