They’re at it again — boomers are changing the food marketplace

Beef producers told to focus on quality and health, and put a face behind the 
product so they win the trust of boomers and millennials

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Baby boomers are key to bringing more Canadian beef to grocery store shelves, says a retail grocery industry analyst.

“Baby boomers continue to lead the market, particularly the food market,” John Scott said at the recent Canfax Cattle Market Forum.

“They’ve got a lot of money, and they’re used to spending it on high-quality products.”

Grocery chains have begun to offer higher-end goods and food products in an effort to appeal to boomers with disposable income, said Scott, former president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers.

“Traditional supermarkets that are getting into markets that are a little bit more upscale will be investing in things that affect your industry, like butchers on the floor and fresh, high-quality meat,” he said.

Health sells

Boomers, and their millennial children, aren’t just focused on quality, but also health, Scott said.

“We call millennials the spoiled kids of the ’80s, and we might have thrown pizza at them and a few doughnuts,” said Scott. “But they’re not doing that to their kids.”

In fact, millennials are influencing their parents’ dietary choices, and this has led to a “dramatic” increase in products such as free-range poultry, organic vegetables, and antibiotic-free beef, he said.

“If you check your supermarkets this Christmas, you start to see the number of people who are walking out of there with free-range organic turkeys. Real or perceived, they believe that that’s the very best for their family. The point is health sells.”

Buying confidence

Trust in how food is produced is also a rising trend, he said.

“We used to say ‘buy local.’ It’s not ‘buy local’ anymore — it’s confidence.”

Costco used confidence in USDA beef to its advantage when it entered Canada’s marketplace and distinguished itself with its high-quality beef. As the Canada Beef brand has grown, however, Costco has changed its focus and now promotes Canada AAA grade beef.

“You think you’ve got a brand? Oh, you’ve got a brand, all right,” Scott told the Canfax attendees. “And you’ve got a brand because people have confidence in it, and they have confidence in you. That’s what buy local is all about.”

Consumers don’t just want to know what’s in the product, but “who stands behind it,” and food marketing needs to capitalize on that, he said.

“I want to be able to promote those people.”

Sobeys’ recent promotion with chef Jamie Oliver has attempted to capitalize on these changing consumer values.

“He’s introducing you to the people behind the product, and that creates confidence,” said Scott.

While producers may not be able to connect directly with their end-users through a national advertising campaign like the Sobeys’ promotion, understanding a retailer’s marketing approach is very important, he said. “You can’t sell to all stores the same way,” he said. “Every one has a strategy. If you understand the strategy, you can help them with that strategy.”

About the author


Jennifer Blair

Jennifer Blair is a Red Deer-based reporter with a post-secondary education in professional writing and nearly 10 years of experience in corporate communications, policy development, and journalism. She's spent half of her career telling stories about an industry she loves for an audience she admires--the farmers who work every day to build a better agriculture industry in Alberta.



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