The Singles Opportunity - Marketing to the single shopper

When opening new vitamins last week, I was surprised to see a half empty the jar. Quickly dismissing my first thought of a production line problem, a comparison of the new batch to the old jar showed that the number of vitamins had dropped from 100 to 90 tablets. Likewise, my potato chips, cans of vegetables and angel hair pasta seem to have slimmed down along with the nation’s economic growth. A common practice in every recession, many CPG manufacturers have resorted to shrinking package quantities and sizes to camouflage rising prices. While some opt for a stealthy downsizing approach, others are trying various marketing angles actually touting the smaller package sizes.

One argument that could be used much more frequently is that of the shrinking family size. While a high-potential approach based on recent and future societal trends, items specifically designed for one and two person households continue to lag. Many recipes, box and freezer meals and heat-and-eat deli options are still geared toward the “traditional family of four.” However, Census data would argue that this image is anything but traditional in today’s world. In fact, the decline of the traditional family of four started as early as the 1980s and today there are more single households than ever before.

Some insightful 2010 Census statistics:

• There are 31.2 million one-person households in the U.S., an increase of 4.0 million over 2000. This brings the share of single households up to 26.7 percent of total households.

• More women than men live alone at 17.2 million versus 13.9 million, respectively.

• Most single householders fall into one of the three categories: single young professionals who can afford their own place, middle-aged divorcees, and elderly people who tend to be on a tight budget. About one-third of all one-person households in 2010 were 65 years or older, compared with 22 percent of all householders overall.

• Geographically, a high percentage of one-person households are concentrated along the upper and central Midwest, extending down into northeastern New Mexico. However, much depends on age, where younger singles are flocking to large metropolitan areas including Atlanta and Washington, DC.

Singles present an important opportunity to food retailers and CPG manufacturers alike:

• Single households proportionally spend more on grocery-type items than multi-person households.

• They are interested in higher-margin quick and easy shopping solutions and prepared meal options. They may also splurge on more luxury type items than families.

• They are brand loyal as they have no or few competing household influences in choice of stores or items purchased.

• The supermarket channel is the prime destination for single shoppers, especially single men (67% market share compared with the total population at 56 percent).

At more than 30 million, the singles market is vast and underserved. Yet, their importance cannot be underestimated. Not only because of their rapidly rising number, but also because they are leading the way in changing consumer lifestyles. At the same time, the singles opportunity requires careful understanding in terms of geography and other demographics and psychographics. An in-depth analysis of your customer and other data will show whether targeting singles is right for you.

Journey Awareness Persona C-Suite/Finance Marketing Retail