Meet the U-boomers

Conventional wisdom says that the emerging economies of China and India are the biggest opportunities for global consumer companies, reports Forbes. But a much bigger opportunity is emerging here in the U.S.--the 24 million middle-class American households approaching retirement with lofty lifestyle aspirations, a thirst for new products and brands, and limited financial resources. Meet the U-boomers, the cohort of financially unprepared yet undaunted and uncompromising baby boomers, who will account for almost 25 percent of total U.S. consumption by 2015. The largest segment of the baby boomer generation, they are positioned in the middle of 10 million well-to-do and 11 million poor boomers. Although they can’t afford all the luxuries they would like, they are optimistic and discriminating and seek quality at lower prices, according to McKinsey. They are tech-savvy, open-minded and willing to experiment, but they (still) distrust authorities. By 2015 there will be 21 million unmarried 51- to 70-year-old boomers--more than twice as many single-person households as the previous generation had at the same age. As the economic clout of the cash-constrained, highly discriminating u-boomers grows, companies will need to rethink how they deliver services while at the same time keeping prices down. Web-based tools that lower delivery costs while retaining a sense of personalization and high-end service are part of the solution. Companies also need to think about repositioning their brands so they help U-boomers feel smart, innovative and proud, as they reconcile their financial limitations and lifestyle aspirations. Food companies can appeal to U-boomers by combining wellness and convenience into products and brands. Most are deeply concerned about their health, while also being committed to proactive health management. Healthy, convenient products--think frozen food formulated for senior nutrition needs, or fruit smoothies containing calcium and Omega-3 fatty acids. Shifting gears to meet the needs of aging boomers--particularly the U segment, which will represent the bulk of the generation's buying power--is a daunting challenge for companies accustomed to seeing younger people as the demographic prize. But the size, spending power and distinctive characteristics of the U-boomer cohort makes them an opportunity that must not be ignored. Forbes   
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