We Bring You Expert Insights and Industry Data, Monthly.

Click Here For Current Issue!


Todd Hale discusses differences in the buying habits of Millennials and Boomers and how they might impact the future of frozen and refrigerated foods.

At last month’s 2015 NFRA Convention, I shared insights on how well NFRA member categories are connected across generational and multi-cultural consumer segments, as well as among households at the extremes of spending power.

A number of articles emphasize the importance of driving retail sales by connecting with younger population groups, whose size as well as current and future spending power are well-documented. The U.S. Census projects that by 2020, the majority of the U.S. population (57%) will be Millennials or younger. That group will include 190 million people, but that leaves 145 million hungry and thirsty consumers within the Gen X, Boomer and Greatest Generation segments.

According to U.S. Census data, about 30% of those between the ages of 18 and 34 are still living with a parent. While our two Millennials have left the nest and have their own careers and interests, we are always more than willing to open our wallets to support their spending habits. Given higher levels of unemployment for younger populations (9.1% among 20 to 24 year olds in September), as well as the number of under-employed Millennials who are working in jobs below their educational level and/or are saddled with high levels of college debt, I would assume there are many others who receive a little — or a lot — of financial support from their parents as well.


What can we learn from current spending levels across refrigerated and frozen departments and categories?

Tod Hale chartDairy Department: Within the top-ranking categories (based on annual sales levels) in the dairy department, Nielsen Homescan metrics reveal fairly universal appeal (in terms of sales per 1,000 households) across Millennial and Boomer households. But within bottom-ranking dairy categories (ready-to-eat desserts, whipped toppings and refrigerated bread), Millennials have lower sales rates. Can demand among Millennials be built or will future category growth be a challenge? At the same time, Boomers are important to the success of a number of dairy department categories, particularly ready-to-eat desserts and whipped toppings. Warning: don’t walk away from these sales opportunities by trying too hard to attract younger consumers.

Deli Department: With few exceptions, deli department categories provide opportunities to connect with shoppers that really matter as there is good or solid development among Millennials and Boomers. Again, however, for deli department categories with low sales among Millennials (side dishes, salads and appetizers from the deli), will demand dissipate or grow as Millennials age? For categories like salads and appetizers where Boomer spending rates index 20% or greater than expected, don’t lose sight of your current power spenders.

Frozen Department: Nielsen measures fairly universal appeal for the largest frozen food categories, but again, there are exceptions. For example, Millennial-run households spend 20% or less on ice cream and novelties, so producers need to assess the risk of current Millennial spending rates on future sales. At the other end of the spectrum, Millennials over-spend on frozen poultry and frozen waffles, pancakes and french toast. Are manufacturers in these categories leveraging the kinds of communication messaging and devices that appeal to these younger shoppers to maximize sales opportunities?

Appeal among Millennials weakens in some mid- and bottom-tier frozen food categories. Sweet goods, whipped toppings, breakfast entrees, soup/chili/stew and bagels all report below-average spending by Millennials. Frozen categories with above-average spending among Millennials include breaded chicken and toaster pastries. Frozen sweet goods and frozen whipped toppings are two categories where Boomers exercise stronger spending.


Trying to connect your products to consumer groups can be a challenge when the extremes within those groups demonstrate unique demands as represented by their buying habits. This bifurcation of demand across Millennials and Boomer households is evident across many, but certainly not all, frozen and refrigerated categories. Where current demand is understated among younger population segments, manufacturers in those categories need to ascertain if demand will increase in the future or not and respond accordingly. Where current demand and spending is greater among older population segments, ride those waves as long as you can, but recognize that many good things do come to an end.


Todd Hale

Todd Hale

Retail insights thought leader Todd Hale is the former senior vp of consumer and shopper insights at Nielsen and now serves as principal at Cincinnati-based Todd Hale, LLC. A popular conference presenter, he also speaks at large and small company events — everything from board meetings to sales meetings to planning sessions. Todd’s discussions include the latest consumer and retail trends with insights on how manufacturers and retailers can enhance both near- and long-term market performance. He can be reached at todd@toddhalellc.com.

Leave a Reply

Got News?

Let us know!

Email Warren at


On Key

Related Posts

Half-Dipped Yogurt Bars

Casper’s Ice Cream, Richmond, Utah, expands its gluten- and dairy-free Jolly Llama lineup with a collection of Half-Dipped Yogurt Bars. The probiotic-rich frozen treats come

No-Sauce Garlic Parm Wings

Greeley, Colo.-based Pilgrim’s introduces no-sauce Garlic Parm Chicken Wings that allow consumers to “get lost in flavor, not sauce.” Made with all-natural chicken raised without

Extra Hot Pockets

Solon, Ohio-based Hot Pockets, part of the Nestlé USA portfolio, partners with First We Feast, maker of the popular YouTube series Hot Ones, to create

Bavarian Pretzel Sticks

J&J Snack Foods, Mt. Laurel, N.J., maker of the SuperPretzel lineup, brings its most popular foodservice pretzel to the freezer aisle. Free of artificial flavors,

Grab & Go Family-Size Meals

Drake’s Fresh Pasta Co. High Point, N.C., offers a full line of restaurant-quality grab-and-go meals under its Parla Pasta brand. Made with only the finest,



contact us

Or reach us directly:

Paul Chapa, Co-Founder & Managing Partner
913-481-5060 or paul@frbuyer.com

Warren Thayer, Co-Founder & Managing Partner
603-252-0507 or warren@frbuyer.com