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Demographics hold key to future of apple and other marketers

CHICAGO — The U.S. apple industry has facts reinforcing the strength of its future.

This is based on demographic information showing that oncoming U.S. population growth will be coming from a health-conscious Generation Y as well as immigrant populations. All of these groups are concerned with eating healthy produce, such as apples.

Key indicators are for food marketers if they study and anticipate marketing changes, according to demographer Ken Gronbach of KGC Direct, based in Haddam, CT.

Gronbach encouraged apple leaders not to confuse demographers with economists. He dryly noted that economists “have picked 20 of the last five recessions.”

Gronbach told 2013 Apple Crop Outlook & Marketing Conference attendees during his “Demography is Destiny: The Future of the Apple Industry” presentation that demographics hold key information to understanding markets.

Some news events can be predictable if cast against a demographic background. He noted, for example, that every year from 2008 to 2012, 4 million Democrats came of voting age. Meanwhile, Republicans lost 2 million voters a year due to death among the elderly. Democratic presidential winners for that time should be of no surprise, he noted.

His basic message is that looking at birth and immigration trends will tell marketers of food and non-food products a great deal about their future. This certainly applies to apples.

He characterized those of Generation Y in these ways:

  • Born between 1985 and 2005. Their 83 million members outnumber baby boomers.
  • Generation Y members are generally very “green,” humanitarian and are not bigoted; they do not see race or color.
  • They understand nutrition and will demand transparency.
  • They are flooding the labor market and will face 50 percent unemployment.
  • They will open a sea of small businesses because they need to eat.
  • They will speak “cyber” as a first language. They tell time differently, because they tend not to own watches.
  • They will change the way apples are marketed and consumed.

Gronbach said Generation Y is now 8 to 27. “There are a sea of children coming your way” as a result. “Your sales were flat for a while? Generation X didn’t consume enough apples.”

Oncoming Generation Y will not only be the United States’ largest generation, but “they are nutrition-conscious to a fault,” he said. “You have opportunities for this group to consume at [high] levels we don’t understand. They will change the way apples are marketed and consumed. They will change the way food is bought.”

He added, “Meat will go away,” and obesity is also expected to decline. “You can be part of the solution.” The time to begin that promotion is now, he said.

In that regard, he noted that his career started with Volkswagen. While standing in a seaport facility full of shiny new Beetles, he asked how those cars would ever be sold. He was told: “Early to bed. Early to rise. Advertise, advertise, advertise!”

As baby boomers retire, Gronbach said U.S. demographics will see “a huge paradigm shift” because the technical fields dominated by boomers will have a void.

Generation X rejected blue collar careers, but now young people are going to technical schools, “which are filled with the best and brightest seeking high pay in demanding jobs. Today, a good mechanic can earn more than an attorney.”

Gronbach said the baby boom generation, born between 1945 and 1964, saw 78.2 million births. In the next two years, 15 million boomers will retire, creating “the biggest retirement in history.”

Generation X, born between 1965 and 1985 saw 69.5 million births. Keeping the U.S. population from decline in that time — and filling many jobs — was the immigration of more than 40 million Latinos.

Asian immigration is also very strong. Gronbach indicated that in 2010, there were 430,000 immigrants from Asia. China was the biggest source of the group. Indians and Filippinos were also strong.

Gronbach noted the future of the United States is strong because Americans are having babies.

China and Russia, along with some other countries, are on the decline because the population is not replacing itself.