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Baby boomers may be the demographic 'bomb'

Companies would be wise to develop convenient packaging for aging baby boomers that have plenty of disposable income.

The old school of product advertising and marketing suggested targeting your message to the young, particularly 18- to 49-year olds. But with 75 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964, baby boomers represent not only an enormous market, but also an affluent one, with an estimated $1 trillion in disposable income.

That’s according to the story, Oldies but goodies, published in the March 14, 2005 issue of U.S. News & World Report. Targeting baby boomers (even children, for that matter) through packaging is already visible on store shelves. Look at all the low-carb, low-sugar offerings in nearly every grocery store article and you’ll see package violators touting these benefits in everything from cereal to spaghetti sauce.

Empty-nest packaging

USN&WR’s story quotes Steve Audette, a marketing executive in the meals division of General Mills Inc., as saying, “Half of all boomers live in households where the kids are gone. They’re rediscovering what it is to be single or a couple again.” To reach that audience, “General Mills is targeting empty-nest boomers with Pillsbury dinner rolls and Green Giant vegetables that are packaged in resealable freezer bags to allow for several small portions,” said the story.

It’s a good bet that packaging will continue to cater to this aging demographic. Consumer convenience continues to be the focus of packaging, and that’s understandable. On a business trip to New Orleans in early March, I witnessed four seniors struggling to open what looked like a vitamin bottle. “It’s supposed to be child-proof,” said one. “You mean adult-proof,” quipped the other. If I had a dollar for every time I heard this complaint—well, you get the idea.

Indeed, opening and reclosing challenges were cited by all ages as the most frequently encountered packaging problems in a new survey and report from Mona Doyle/The Consumer Network, Inc.

Consumer complaints

Marketers would do well to read the report because so many of its findings, i.e., consumer complaints, focused on issues most relevant to baby boomers and seniors. They included difficulty getting capsules, tablets, and pills out of the package, and labels that were hard-to-read or understand. On the other hand, easy-to-dispense liquid soaps and top-glide reclosable zippers were appreciated for their user-friendly features.

For more details on the 137-page report, contact Mona Doyle of the Consumer Network at 215/235-2400, or e-mail her at

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