The Mind of the Male Shopper

When it comes to purchasing and preparing foods, men are a prime target for nutrition education. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 41 percent of meals made at home are prepared by men—while consumer research reports indicate more men nationwide are taking over as the primary household grocery shoppers. How do your food and nutrition messages resonate with this audience? “Supermarket Guru” Phil Lempert explains the motives of men-folk, and SuperValu/Jewel-Osco corporate dietitian Kim Kirchherr, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, shares how you can use these insights.

Men Want Satisfaction

Phil: Communicating to different audiences is not as simple as it seems on the surface—or on a package. A study in the journal Perceptual and Motor Skills found that men prefer bright, bold colors over the tints or pastels that appeal to women. Men and women also tend to be more responsive to different key phrases. Whereas females generally are interested in words that describe the taste and convenience of a food, men are more attracted to words that describe the ease of preparation and the satisfaction they’ll get from eating the product.

Kim: The ideas of “staying healthy” or “feeling better” are gender-neutral, but what may change are the examples of foods and solutions we offer. For example, a parent looking for kid-friendly snacks will appreciate naturally pre-portioned apples, bananas or oranges. For a male client who wants to eat more fish but is unsure of what kind to get or how to prepare it, discuss the milder taste of tilapia or how grilled salmon can have a “steaklike” consistency.

Men Need Grocery Store GPS

Phil: Men are still in the supermarket discovery phase, where they are much more impressed by the appearance of the product versus its actual benefits, and are more influenced by in-store displays and call-outs on packaging than their female counterparts. At the same time, according to the 2007 TNS Retail Forward report “Men in Grocery Stores,” male shoppers can’t always locate the products they’re looking for in supermarkets—and they don’t like asking for help once they are there.

Kim: Help your male audience by identifying where in a grocery store they will find the foods you recommend. For a single male professional, that might include ingredients for entertaining or for lunches that travel well and support a workout or league night. A father preparing meals for his kids will appreciate messages about foods that are budget-friendly, easy to prepare and tasty, and that don’t require hard-and-fast recipes.

Men Go Where They "Get It"

Phil: It’s difficult to position the same product with multiple messaging or displays throughout a store, but where supermarkets have done an excellent job bridging both male and female shoppers is in the prepared foods departments. From freshly made entrees to sautéed vegetables and salads, the assortment of foods in these sections can offer shoppers an entire meal or a few side dishes to complement a homemade main course. Another example is Whole Foods’ beer bars and glass-enclosed sausage rooms, where you can watch sausages being made. Men like to see the machinery behind the scenes.

Kim: Grocery retailers have components that target men, women and both. The next time you walk through your local store, look for displays that might appeal to different clients throughout the year. For your tech-savvy clients, recommend apps for food shopping, label reading and meal ideas (such as Phil’s “Smarter Shopping” app on Bottom line, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel or create customized nutrition education resources exclusively for men. Just make sure your materials include ideas you can call out for male and female clients alike.

Kim Kirchherr
Kim Kirchherr, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, FAND, is based in Illinois.
Phil Lempert
Phil Lempert is a food retail industry expert known as the SupermarketGuru.