In CPG advertising, Mom rules. And for good reason: moms still have the most influence when it comes to the food decisions for her family. P&G has spent billions, and created some beautiful, emotional ads thanking mom over the last few years. But… have you noticed more men walking around the aisles of your nearby grocer?

In a recent study from Edelman, more than 50% of households reported both parents shared the food planning and purchasing responsibilities. To quote Edelman senior food and nutrition strategist, Mary K. Young, “As dad continues to elevate his role within the home, we believe he’ll become an even more influential force in the food purchases.”

This trend has certainly emerged in my house as well. Since the birth of our first child four years ago, my role in planning and purchasing food has increased greatly. In any given month, I make about two-thirds of our family’s total shopping trips. It’s important to note I’m talking about trips here – not total spend. Because, while I do handle the large stock-up trick solo from time to time, I’m primarily the short-list, quick-trip guy in the house.

The photos shown here show just how much our children impact dominate our shopping lists. I’m primarily buying perishables – fruits, veggies, bread and milk that the children eat as part of most meals – and ‘safe for the car’ snacks like granola and cereal bars. And for a lot of evening fill-up trips, one or both of the kids join me as well. These pics were all taken in 10 days’ time:

  1. The first shows something close to a stock-up trip featuring most of the normal staples.
  2. The second shows a standard fill-in trip.
  3. The third shows a fill-in trip where the kids got more involved by “helping” put food in the cart. Crescent rolls (or “roller bread” as they call it), a pineapple (too interesting to pass up) and two extras (read: junk) they each got to choose/try: potato chips and Cocoa Pebbles (they surprisingly didn’t like either).
  4. Finally, I’ve included a shot from our nearby “mom and pop” gas station/market. Usually once a week I’ll need to swing by on my way home to pick up something. Here it was the usual: milk and bread.

So… why am I the fill-in guy? It all comes down to speed. It takes me FOREVER to get through my nearby 95,000-square foot Giant Eagle. I’m much more efficient – and confident – shopping at smaller retailers like Walgreens, Giant Eagle Express, and even my local Target’s smaller grocery section. I know where everything is, and I can get in and get out quickly.

This illustrates another key trend: the average square footage of supermarkets in the US has been falling since 2006. Traditional grocery and mass retailers have had to adjust strategy AND store size to combat the growing migration to smaller drug and convenience retailers. As Chad Arnold, president and CEO of Door To Door Organics said, “When a customer walks into a store of 40,000 items and only wants to buy 30 of them, that’s a terrible customer experience. Companies are now scaling back stores and getting them more focused to specific customers, instead of a one-store-fits-all approach.”

Leading the charge locally, Giant Eagle opened it’s first “Express” store in 2007: 14,000–square feet with only a handful of aisles and fewer brands on the shelves – usually one leading brand, and a Giant Eagle private label. (This ties in to another key finding from the Edelman study: for moms and dads, brand name is NOT a key factor in decisions.)  And in the last year, Walmart and Kroger have each opened their own smaller-format concepts: the 5,000-square-foot “Walmart to Go” and 6,800-square-foot “Turkey Hill Market,” respectively.

The growth of my family has made it critical for me to become more involved in our household planning and shopping. But the decrease in size of and options within retailers has made it far more enjoyable for me to do so.

Go dads… we can do this!

Tom Kirby
Tom Kirby
Account Director

Tom is responsible for leading the agency’s efforts in defining key marketing and communications strategies that will best help our clients achieve their goals. Tom has over a decade of experience developing and executing campaigns spanning both the digital and traditional tactics.

Tom began his advertising career for Giant Eagle where he worked on co-branded initiatives with CPG brands, and helped launch both the retailer’s GetGo convenience store chain, and their widely popular loyalty program, FuelPerks.

Since joining Smith Brothers in 2006, he has led teams in the development of successful campaigns for major brands including PNC Bank, Ore-Ida, Bagel Bites, 9Lives, Del Monte, Stouffer’s, Dreyer’s Ice Cream and Jamba Juice.