Insights from Cargill's LifeStages Framework: What Boomers and Matures Want

Lakshmi Sitaram

Lakshmi Sitaram
Senior Marketing
Research Analyst

This is Part Two of a two-part series examining food decision behaviors by generation. Part One discussed Generations Y and X, this post focuses on Boomers and Matures. Part one focused on Generations X and Y.

No one is as committed to eating healthy as Boomers (ages 46 to 64) and Matures (ages 65 and older). Whether they're motivated by wanting to prevent or manage health problems or they simply have a deeper understanding of the connection between physical health and well-being, health is fundamental to their food choices.

While 72% of consumers across the board say they try to eat healthy, the commitment grows with age, from a low of 68% of Generation Y (ages 18 to 30) to a high of 77% of Matures.** In all generations, women are more likely than men to make healthy food a priority.**

What does all this mean for food manufacturers? As I explained in my last blog post on Gen Y and Gen X, Cargill's proprietary LifeStages framework segments the market by age, generation, and presence of children under 18 years of age in the household. In this post, we focus on Boomer parents and non-parents and Matures. What sets Cargill apart is that we go beyond simple market segmentation to extract attitudes and behaviors by life stages across key areas that drive food and beverage decision making. 

We use this information to help our customers improve or market their products to better appeal to their target audience—or how to launch new products to broaden their audience or reach new markets.

In the case of Boomers and Matures, "foods with benefits" for maintaining and managing healthare more likely to appeal to them as both are more concerned about age-related or chronic health issues such as mental acuity, bone health, joint health, heart health, etc. Hence products that provide these specific health benefits will more likely resonate with these consumer groups.

Both Boomers and Matures read food labels more often than younger generations; in fact, 75% of older Boomers report that they examine labels.* In contrast with younger generations who are skeptical of food labels and health claims and tend to look online or to their friends for information, this group relies more on food labels, physicians and health magazines for nutrition and health information.* For this reason, packaging is a great way to educate and engage this group. For instance, products with easy-to-understand labels leading with a health claim (e.g., "May help to lower cholesterol") and endorsed by a health care provider will have credibility for both Boomers and Matures.

Taste is important to everyone—especially at dinner—but it's more of a purchase driver for Boomer parents, who likely have picky teenagers who value the taste experience. Similarly, convenience is a driver for Boomer parents.  As such, creating great tasting products with convenience benefits will definitely resonate with this group. Boomer parents are also more likely than younger parents to favor reductions in fat, sodium and sugar when looking for products for their families.

Surprisingly, Matures are more likely to try new foods than Boomers but are less likely to consider themselves "foodies." Matures rely on traditional approaches to cooking and are less likely than Boomers to take shortcuts.

Unlike younger consumers, older buyers tend to remain loyal to brands they trust and are less likely to switch to a different brand. In general, Boomers and Matures are not as price-driven as Gen Y and Gen X, but Boomer parents tend to be more price-driven among this group. Therefore, Boomer parents are more likely to switch brands based on either competitive pricing or better value. 

Matures are more likely to consider environmental impact when purchasing food/beverage products and understand the implications of their choices for future generations, perhaps because 90% of them are grandparents.** Forty-four percent of Matures say that environmental issues have influenced their food choices.* At 42%, Boomer parents aren't far behind.*

If you give consumers products with the traits they want, they'll buy them. But first you have to know what they want. That's how Cargill's consumer insights take the guesswork out of product development and marketing. Now who doesn't want that?

*2010 HFI Trends Study – US
** 2010 and 2011 GfK Roper Reports – US

Lakshmi Sitaram is a senior marketing research analyst at Cargill. She has been with the company for the last 5 of her 15 years in the industry.