baby boomers shopping grocery products

Packaging Considerations for Baby Boomer Consumers


While younger generations of consumers tend to steal the spotlight and grab headlines, baby boomers remain the biggest spenders in the U.S. economy. It is crucial that brands keep the needs, lifestyles, and preferences of these shoppers in mind for packaging design.

Research from Visa shows Americans over the age of 50 account for half of all consumer spending in the U.S., and it predicts those aged 60+ will continue to drive economic growth over the next decade. In a report on marketing to baby boomers, Nielsen points out that older consumers often get lost in the shadow of the main 18-49-year-old demographic. But, the report’s authors call that a mistake:

“Boomers are the most valuable generation in the history of marketing, and they are too valuable to ignore. Marketing is many things, but it is first and foremost a numbers game. As we have established, the numbers on boomers are big, and they add up to something that is very compelling. If they’re loyal consumers, do your best to keep them. If not, figure out a way to win them over before your competition does.”


A brand’s packaging is connected to the experience of using the product and how it is marketed. So, what should you be considering as you design packages for the 50+ crowd?

At PACK EXPO 2018, Fresh-Lock welcomed attendees to Freshville, a place where brands could meet typical, modern-day consumers and learn more about them through shopper personas. One of those personas was Retired Rita. Let’s take a closer look at Rita’s story to better understand the kinds of packaging trends that meet her needs and expectations.

Meet Retired Rita

quotation markRita thought life would slow down after she retired from teaching. Instead, she is busier than ever, watching young grandchildren, caring for her ailing father, and supporting her daughter, who is a single mother.

baby boomer consumer

Rita was a “helicopter parent,” and as a grandmother, she constantly worries about the safety of her grandkids around medications and household products. Her dog, Tater, is the only one who understands her stress, and she deserves all the treats in the world.

It’s easy to make assumptions about baby boomers like Rita that may lead to an inaccurate picture of the demographic. For example, being retired doesn’t necessarily mean a laidback life of leisure.

People in Rita’s generation are often described as being sandwiched between aging parents and adult millennial children. Add grandkids and a pampered pet to the mix, and the retirement years can be quite demanding. Rita worries about her loved ones’ health and safety, and she feels a deep sense of responsibility when it comes to their care.

When Rita shops, she isn’t only shopping for herself, she’s thinking of the others in her life. She will gravitate toward product packaging that relieves her worries and makes her life a little easier.

Consumer Trends and Baby Boomers

An interesting observation about many boomer consumers is that they prioritize many of the same things as younger generations. However, they do so for slightly different reasons.

heart icon for baby boomer healthHealth and Wellness: While millennials may seek out natural and organic food and beverage products, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) finds nearly half of baby boomers are more interested in functional foods. They’re looking at labels for information about probiotics, fiber content, vitamins, and antioxidants. Research from Nielsen shows older Americans are driving growth in the nutritional supplement market.

bag of chips snack iconFrequent Snacking: Quick and easy healthy snacks as a meal replacement isn’t only a trend with young professionals. Snacks also make a lot of sense for empty-nesters who’d rather avoid the effort involved in preparing a whole meal. The NPD Group found boomers are 20 percent more likely to snack than millennials, often choosing options like nuts, trail mix, and yogurt.

sustainable packaging leaf iconSustainability: While environmental impact may be more of a concern for millennials, Nielsen says more than a third of baby boomers are altering their purchasing habits with sustainability in mind. Nielsen also found sustainability claims work well across generations with 72 percent of boomers indicating sustainability efforts were “very” or “extremely important.”

household baby boomer safety iconHousehold Safety: A national poll found grandparents were four times more likely to keep prescription medications in a place where children might easily access them. That may be one reason why reports 20 percent of pediatric poisonings involve a grandparent’s medication, highlighting the need for child-resistant packaging solutions.

paw icon for pet food packagingPet Products: According to Pet Age, Americans spend more than $77 billion a year on their pets, and baby boomers lead the pack. The generation accounts for more than 46 percent of spending on pet products. For many boomers, furry friends become close companions, and they are willing to pay extra to give their pets comfort and happiness. Get additional insights on pet food packaging from our interactive infographic.

baby boomer online shopping iconOnline Shopping: This is a trend to keep an eye on. A recent survey found 96 percent of boomers preferred shopping in-person for items like groceries, but there is a shift occurring. Baby boomers readily adopt technology once it becomes mainstream. Nielsen says a third of internet users are boomers and 33 percent are also “heavy internet users.” As online ordering becomes easier and the e-commerce supply chain gets faster, expect more seniors to take advantage of the convenience that comes from shopping for necessities with a click.

Reaching Rita with Flexible Reclosable Packaging

Flexible packaging, including standup pouches fitted with sliders and zippers for reclosability, provide solutions to packaging problems while addressing consumer trends. Flexible films with the right design and closure offer many advantages for both the retail shopping experience as well as e-commerce packaging.

Flexible packaging already provides sustainability benefits by reducing materials and emissions. As recyclable films are developed, their advantages as an environmentally-friendly packaging material option will increase, making flexible packaging even more sustainable.

Easy-to-open closures, such as Fresh-Lock’s Ergonomic Slider, are ideal for older consumers and also help keep food fresh for longer. Flexible packaging closures can also provide peace of mind. Our groundbreaking, child-resistant Child-Guard® slider is being used to keep kids from getting into household chemicals, and it also has the potential to make pharmaceutical and nutraceutical packaging safer.

When shoppers are willing to pay a premium on products, such as healthy snacks and pet treats, they expect premium packaging, too. Resealability offers added convenience and value. The innovative Fresh-Lock® mini Slider is the perfect closure for small format pouches.

Use this list to help your brand develop a packaging strategy that reaches consumers like Retired Rita:

Ease Rita’s Concerns and Make Her Life Easier with Packaging

  • Apply packaging features that add convenience, improve functionality, and extend the life of a product
  • Use the space for labeling on flexible pouches to highlight health claims and provide important information to the baby boomer audience
  • Call out sustainability efforts to show a commitment to being environmentally-friendly. Our on-demand webinar, Growth in Green: Opportunities in Sustainable Flexible Packaging, can help uncover what’s next for brands.
  • Consider child-resistant closures for products including household chemicals, medicines and dietary supplements
  • Adopt a multi-channel packaging strategy that works for retail and e-commerce
  • Provide premium packaging features such as reclosability for premium products to increase customer satisfaction

The baby boomer consumer is not to be ignored. These shoppers are more complex than you might imagine and may not fit into standard stereotypes. For example, you may assume boomers are more likely to be stuck in their ways and loyal to certain brands. Yet, research shows they are just as likely to switch brands as other generations.

Defining your target market and the ways product packaging plays a role in their purchase decisions will help consumer packaged goods brands stand out while creating loyal customers. What can your brand do to win new baby boomer customers and earn their loyalty?

Contact the packaging experts at Fresh-Lock and let’s discuss ways to connect with the consumers you want to reach. Be sure to check out our exclusive e-book on consumer packaging trends to find out more.

fresh-lock ebook about packaging trends

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