Friday, April 24, 2009

Marketing to seniors

Entrepreneur.com recently interviewed Maria Henke, Assistant Dean of Gerontology at USC. Opportunities are growing in the senior market and Henke has advice for business owners.

"When targeting older persons it's especially important to consider the functionality and safety of the product...you may also have to consider providing support services such as assistance using a new technology or device. Think 'universal design'. Not only will entrepreneurs make and sell better products in the senior market; they will also be more successful to a broader range of consumers." Henke also suggests that entrepreneurs looking to target seniors should segment a particular group. "This is not one big homogenous group that ranges in age from 55 to 95," states Henke. A healthy, active, employed senior will have much different needs than a retiree in poor health. Your targeted segments will affect how you distribute your product and your selling price.

One of the major mistakes businesses make in marketing to seniors is assuming that seniors are incapable of using technology. Henke reports that, "Older adults are the fastest-growing group of internet users. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people over the age of 65 spend more than $7 billion per year online. Another mistake people make is to assume that people's consumption habits don't change over time. If older Americans are as brand loyal as they're made out to be, then the American auto industry certainly would not be in such dire straits."

Before moving into the senior market (or any new market), an entrepreneur must do their research. Henke has developed a list of 5 questions to answer before moving into the senior market.

1. What need is to be met with the introduction of the product?

2. How will those needs change over the life of the product?

3. How significant are functionality issues related to familiarity with technology/physical ability, etc.?

4. What language is appropriate and what messages resonate with this target audience?

5. How might the target audience define themselves (e.g., do they think they are "older women" or do they define themselves as "boomers" or "seniors")? How congruent are your views of this audience vs. how they self-identify?

senior marketing article

As a business owner, do you currently market to seniors or are you looking to move into the senior market? In your research, how does marketing to seniors differ from other segments? Do you think the senior market is an under-served market and has many opportunities?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Vague food labels leave parents frustrated about food allergens

Being diagnosed with a food allergy not only affects the life of that individual, but it also affects the way their family eats, shops, and lives. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 3.9% of children (approximately 3 million) in the US have a food allergy and reports are on the rise. From 1997 to 2007, reports of food allergies in children under 18 have risen 18%.

The most severe and life-threatening allergen is peanuts. According to Dr. Evan Matheson, an allergist, peanut allergies were uncommon when he started his practice in 1982. Recently, Dr. Matheson says, "I saw seven in a week."

What does this mean for food producers and supermarkets?

A federal law was passed in 2006 instituting labeling for products that contain common allergens. Unfortunately, there is still confusion. Manufacturers are placing vague warnings like "may contain" or "manufactured in a facility that processes" allergens. These labels leave consumers confused and frustrated.

For Michelle Fogg, mother of a daughter with allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, soy, and mustard, her first shopping trip after her daughter's diagnosis was traumatic. She said, "I left the store crying because everything has a warning on it."

Some parents feel that the "may contain" label is too broad. Scott Mandell, founder and CEO of Enjoy Life Foods, believes that labels need to be standardized. Mandell has turned parents' frustration with vague labels into a business. Enjoy Life Foods produces allergen-free cookies, granola, and other snacks. "When you read a lot of ingredient labels in the market, there are certain ingredients being used where you need a degree in chemistry to really know what this is--and what allergens might this product have in it. You read our ingredient labels, you understand what our ingredients are," says Mandell.

food allergies article


As an ag business owner, do you have allergen warnings on your food products? Would you like to see these labels standardized? Is the increase in children with food allergies a business opportunity for you? Would you consider making "allergen-free" products?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Candy sales up in a down economy

In hard economic times, it seems consumers are cutting back on spending, and businesses are hurting. So how does that explain increasing candy sales?

“It seems that people will treat themselves to something small like a little bit of candy,” says Margaret Allender, owner of the Nashville Candy Store. She has seen a 20% increase in sales this year.

Amanda Weiss, owner of Mandy’s Candy in Ellettsville, IN, says that customers “need those pick-me-ups during these times.” Her sales have increased 30% this year and has seen a flood of new customers.

When people are faced with tough economic times, indulgences seem to be cut from expenses, but they are still looking for relaxation/stress relievers. So instead of that spa treatment or trip to the mall, a few pieces of candy seems to be a cheap indulgence over pricier things.

Candy sales article

As a consumer, do you feel that you have been forced to cut spending in this economy? Have you chosen to replace indulgences with cheaper substitutions (like candy)? As a business owner, how have your sales been affected? Do you sell any “cheap indulgences” and have seen an increase in sales in these items?