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Marketing to Baby Boomers

America’s 75 million Echo Boomers are coming of age; are you marketing to them?

By Diane Toops, News and Trends Editor

As the majority of the 78 million Baby Boomers transition into new roles as "empty nesters," the 75-million-strong Echo Boomer generation (now ages 10-27), is poised to become the next big target of consumer packaged goods (CPG) makers, according to Echo Boom Young Adults -- The Next Growth Wave, a new study from Information Resources Inc. (IRI), Chicago.

"The impact of the Baby Boomer generation has literally transformed the industry, and now their followers -- the Echo Boomers -- are going to have a similar effect," says Janet Eden-Harris, IRI's global chief marketing officer. "Manufacturers need to take note of this phenomenon today and begin investing in marketing and product development initiatives that resonate well with this segment's lifestage and lifestyle."

To tap into this group's significant discretionary spending power, today's marketers first should target the young adults (ages 21-27) who already head households and have become the primary CPG purchase decision makers.

Categories that focus on family living are best positioned for the greatest growth within the Echo Boomer demographic. Baby supply categories (diapers, formula/electrolytes, baby food, baby accessories, etc.) will be a major channel/store choice driver as more and more Echos start families. Strong spending indices among echo boomers with kids represent significant long-term growth opportunity for many convenience meal categories, such as frozen entrees and breakfast foods, refrigerated lunches and dry packaged dinners.

They like dried fruit snacks, aseptic juices and sports drinks. The report also points out that Echo Boomers with kids allocate a higher proportion of their total dollars to private label products than the average household with kids, so brand building will become more of a challenge. Beer (in particular), wine and spirits also will be greatly impacted by this demographic, as more than 40 million new legal drinking-age Echo Boom adults will enter this arena over the next 10 years.

One-stop shopping, thank you

"Manufacturers and retailers need to carefully track purchase behavior for their brands, categories and stores across Echo Boomer segments to effectively anticipate and capitalize on the tremendous sales opportunities ahead," says Eden-Harris.

Echo Boomers prefer one-stop shopping, do not like to purchase in bulk, and tend to be value-conscious. With its emphasis on value, the supercenter channel presently captures a significantly greater share of Echo Boomer CPG spending than that of the general population: 22.9 percent dollar share among Echos with kids vs. 13.9 percent for total households with kids, and 17.2 percent dollar share among Echos without kids vs. 11 percent for total households without kids. Natural/organic foods are already a favorite with Echo Boomers, so they provide good opportunities for growth.

According to the study, the majority of Echo Boom adults, though mindful of their weight, still are less likely than the general population to follow a specific diet and, contrarily, are more likely to visit fast-food chains and skew more toward indulgent snacks and desserts than older generations. This segment appears to be far less concerned about chronic disease, such as high cholesterol, heart problems, etc., than consumers in older age brackets, and is therefore less likely to seek out products with specific health benefits.

Marketing messages for products with disease management and prevention benefits will require an educational component regarding the benefits of early prevention to reach Echo adults.

IRI recommends that manufacturers strive to provide consumers with products that offer weight management benefits within the context of a balanced diet, thereby allowing room for indulgence.


Generation Age Range Number*
Echo Boom 10 - 27 74.8 million
Echo Boom Adults 21 - 27 28.8 million
Generation X 28 - 39 49.2 million
Baby Boomers 40 - 58 78.6 million
Sources: Bureau of the Census, American Generations, Susan Mitchell, Mintel International

*Number based on August 2004 population estimates.

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