For decades, women ruled the world of grocery shopping. And marketers made sure to target female shoppers even if the product being hawked was a favorite of men. Times have changed. A recent New York Times article highlighted how some advertisers are modifying their marketing programs to appeal to the rise in a new group of shoppers: Men.

It turns out that 6 in 10 consumers who eat Wheaties are men but General Mills historically sold the product to women shoppers. This year, General Mills is shifting the brand by launching a separate product called Wheaties Fuel and the marketing angle will tout male athletes.  Readers of publications that target men, such as Men’s Health, will see ads for the product for the first time.boston-grocery-store-1416094-l

The Wheaties strategy underscores a trend discussed in a Nielsen article earlier this year. Analyst Peter Leimbach pointed out that 31.2% of men are now the primary shoppers in their households. In comparison, only 14.3% of men were the primary household shoppers in 1985. Several demographic shifts have brought about this change. Men are marrying later in life. And as more women have entered the workforce, the line dividing household tasks between genders has blurred and brought more men into the supermarket. The Nielsen data also shows that men who assume responsibility for shopping are buying not only for themselves but for the entire family. Research indicates that their carts are likely to contain products ranging from herbal tea to dishwasher rinsing aids.

It’s a fair bet that, like General Mills, a number of marketers will be tweaking their campaigns to appeal to the new shopper in today’s grocery stores.

[Sources: Leimbach, Pete. Role Reversal – Mr. Mom Goes Shopping. Nielsen. July 2009; Newman, Andrew. “For Those Who Want Their Cereal Extra Manly, New York Times. 7.23.09]