As household chores become more gender-neutral, grocery stores try to appeal to men.
Doing the family grocery shopping is a chore that Paul Van Overbeke, 34, doesn’t mind. In fact, he likes it.
Even after spending a full day around food, Van Overbeke, a line cook at Meritage in St. Paul, is content to stroll the aisles at Cub Foods in the evening with his 1-year-old daughter, Betsy.
“My wife is a nurse practitioner and we work odd hours,” he said. “She doesn’t shop or cook, but she likes what I come up with.”
Not long ago, a guy in a grocery store would have been a gag. The sitcom staple of the bumbling dad who buys too much of the wrong stuff has been replaced by a growing number of savvy male shoppers.
A 2012 survey from the media agency BPN found that 40 percent of men identify as their family’s primary grocery shopper.
It’s enough of a trend to attract the attention of Phil Lempert, who writes and consults as the Supermarket Guru. “I pick the top 10 food trends every year, and male presence in the grocery made my list for 2013,” he said.
“It’s a game changer.”
Even before the Great Recession, single guys, stay-at-home dads and men who work from home were taking their place in the checkout line. But when the economic downturn took a disproportionate toll on men, more took up the household task.
Meet Mr. Mom
“Mr. Mom is the norm,” said Woody Hunt, store manager at Rainbow in St. Louis Park.
Hunt, who’s been in the grocery business for more than 30 years, marvels at how the customer base has changed. “What once occurred occasionally we see all day every day,” he said. “It’s a 50-50 split.”
Both Hunt and Lempert said that men don’t shop the way women do, partly because they are less likely to have grown up accompanying their mother on weekly grocery runs.
“Men don’t like to shop, they like to buy,” said Susan Moores, a dietitian and consultant to Kowalski’s. “They want to find the target and move on, see something and strike.”
Anecdotal evidence suggests that men are less likely to bring a grocery list, which makes them more susceptible to impulse purchases than their female counterparts, said Kevin Coupe, retail analyst for the website Morning News Beat.
Moores agrees. She regularly sees male shoppers responding to “baby barkers,” the industry name for the small portable refrigerated cases often positioned near the front of a store. And Rainbow’s $6 meal deal (which includes a hot entree and two sides) has been a particular hit with male customers seeking a ready-made dinner, Hunt said.
But it’s a mistake to think men can’t — or don’t — cook. A survey commissioned by Kraft Foods that was carried in the February issue of Progressive Grocer found that 96 percent of dads claim to cook once a week. Baby barkers, Moores points out, are typically stocked with meal components — all the ingredients for tacos or pot roast, for example — and a recipe card.