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Don't forget this crucial segment of the market when designing and selling natural products

Millennials are important, but baby boomers comprise nearly one-third of the "Trendsetter Foodie" population, according to Packaged Facts.

When it comes to the food industry, millennials get a lot of attention from brands and marketers in terms of what to prioritize or ingredients that may emerge as the next big trend. But they shouldn't get all the attention.

A recent report from Packaged Facts shows that while millennials make up the single largest segment of the "Trendsetter Foodie" population at 36 percent, baby boomers are just behind that at 32 percent. For food companies and retailers, ignoring such a significant chunk of the population that ultimately defines food trends can be a costly mistake.

Because millennials are young, they typically have lower earnings and therefore less buying capacity than older shoppers. Trendsetter Foodies, the report found, are likely to have a household income either below $50,000 or above $150,000; the millennials dominate the former group, and the baby boomers the latter.

For the most part, compared to the general (non-"Foodie") population, trendsetting boomers and millennials are remarkably similar when it comes to food. But there are some defining characteristics of trendsetting baby boomers that are important for brands to take note of.

Boomers, defined in the report as between the ages of 50 and 69, are more likely to be female, non-Hispanic white, live in relatively small households in smaller cities, towns or rural areas, and are less likely employed full-time. They are less likely than millennials to always think of calories in what they eat but more likely to diet on an ongoing basis to lose weight—although they’re less likely to try diets when they just come out.

They also haven't kept up with some of the defining traits of a millennial foodie: Boomers aren't quite as interested in gourmet, foreign and heavily-spiced foods as millennials. Where they excel is in wanting to know as much as possible about ingredients before buying a product and avoiding artificial additives. They also don't indulge in unhealthy foods quite as often.

Says the report:

While Trendsetter Foodies are heavily engaged in weight management, they also allow themselves some leeway when it comes to indulging from time to time. Trendsetter Foodies under the age of 50 are much more likely to agree with the statement “I like to treat myself to foods not good for me.”

It's no surprise, then, that 53 percent of boomers responded that they often feel they overeat, compared with 59 percent of millennials.

The takeaway for brands and retailers is to keep this crucial segment of the market in mind when messaging and designing products. Trendsetting boomers and millennials both prioritize organic, but it may help to market products that may appeal more to boomers in the first place—products with milder flavors, for example—with claims tailored to this particular generation—"free of artificial additives" might be one. For retailers, maybe there are implications for in-store messaging, or targeted sale specials that can attract boomers via a weekly flyer.

The specifics will be up to the brand and retailer, but the overall message is: Millennials are important, but they're not the only ones who are shopping for food. Don’t treat the rest of the population like they don’t matter!

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