Television came of age during an era in America when gender roles were more clearly segregated. At that time, it was primarily women who made shopping lists, went to the supermarket, and prepared meals. Over the decades, however, women in real life pursued careers and many families left behind the paradigm of a woman being the one in charge of all things domestic.

Men do at least as much supermarket shopping as women.

Food brands are now starting to put numbers on the changes in American household food shopping, and have concluded something many people already know: men and women shop equally for food, and the man who is in charge of regular supermarket shopping is not a novelty. 

Depending on which study you review, men are responsible for either an equal amount of grocery shopping as women or they are the primary household shoppers. The consumer marketing insights from these studies offer valuable information for packaged food brands. 

Men and Their “Search and Retrieve” Approach to Shopping

As consumer marketing insights go, it is not really a surprise that men have a different approach to food shopping than women do. Women are likelier to browse the aisles, and men are more prone to bring a list and treat shopping as a “search and retrieve” mission. Multiple surveys indicate that men, as a rule, figure out what they are going to buy before setting foot in the store. That does not mean they do not stray from their lists. They do. However, they go grocery shopping with a slightly different mindset than their female counterparts. 

What Men Buy

Men are primary buyers of alcohol and meat, which may not be surprising. They also pick produce, snacks, and other household necessities like paper towels. Convenience is more highly coveted among male shoppers, and men tend to spend less time in stores. Do not be fooled, though. Less time in stores does not mean that men do not spend. Men are happy to spend in supermarkets. They are not only bringing fuller baskets to the checkout, they are paying more per item than they once did. Men make impulse purchases as well, so there is really no reason for food brands to feel threatened by the ascent of the male household shopper.

How Can Food Brands Serve Male Shoppers Better?

Serving male shoppers better will require gathering consumer marketing insights from their purchase data. 

Food brands, of course, cannot cater to one sex to the exclusion of the other, so how can they accommodate the sometimes-different shopping habits women and men have? Providing stand-out packaging and unique retail displays for food products may appeal to men, and theoretically, it should appeal to women who like to browse grocery aisles as well. Eye-catching packages that include convenience features like resealable pouches have appeal for both men and women.

Men Involved in More Than “Going to the Store”

It is important to note that just because men tend to follow a “search and retrieve” paradigm for grocery shopping does not mean they are shopping as an assigned household chore. Those lists are not necessarily made by wives or female partners but are largely their own creation. So, as well as buying, men are choosing products. What is more, 93 percent of men prepare meals for themselves, and 77 percent of men prepare meals for other people. In other words, they are choosing the products they want, purchasing them, and taking them home and preparing them. 

A Major American Lifestyle Shift 

Men who do the grocery shopping are hardly a novelty, but food brands may not quite grasp just how major a lifestyle shift this represents. Men watch online cooking videos (up 27 percent since 2010), and they are regularly enticed by online ads to try something new. Just as fathers no longer “babysit” their own children, men no longer “pinch hit” in the kitchen. They are fully invested in household food shopping and food preparation at all stages. Food brands that recognize this trend and embrace it will have a competitive edge over the ones that do not. 

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