Men Are Taking Over the Grocery Aisles

Men say they're shouldering the lion’s share of grocery shopping for their households, but most men don't shop the same way as women — though some do, admittedly, read packaging. US Department of Agriculture/flickr

Who does the grocery shopping in your house? Not so long ago, you'd probably name a female household member. These days, not so much.

According to a study from Men's Health, 84 percent of men are now their family's main grocery shoppers. That's up 19 percentage points over the last 10 years. What's more, they've upset the balance of power in the kitchen, too. More men are cooking now than ever before.

"The study's results continue to challenge many gender stereotypes related to food shopping and cooking," says Men's Health vice president and publisher Chris Peel in a news release. "Men have an active role in each stage of the food purchasing process – before getting to the store, while there, and when cooking the food they've bought.

Granted, MH only surveyed men about their food-shopping load. Other studies suggest that women still hit the grocery store more often, though not by too much, according to the Washington Post. Shopping duties do, in fact, seem more evenly split and less gender-specific than in past generations.

All of which means that food manufacturers and supermarkets are now changing the way they package, display and market grocery items to better woo this rising army of male shoppers.

Men behind the cart

Guys aren't just buying more food items per trip than they did a decade ago, they're also shopping alone more often, according to MH. In other words, they're starting to look more like traditional female food shoppers.

A big reason why has to do with changing family dynamics. As more women head into the workplace their traditional domestic duties have shifted, leaving husbands, boyfriends and significant others to pick up the slack at home. Not only are men pitching in more with food shopping and meal preparation (not to mention housecleaning and diaper duty), but a majority claim they enjoy their expanded domestic roles — especially the food-related stuff.

guys are cooking more
Guys aren't just grocery shopping more, they're also taking over more kitchen duties – and finding they love it. Antoine K/flickr

In fact, many guys are already pretty expert gastronomes by the time they settle down with a partner, partly because they're waiting longer to commit. During that long stretch of single life, men (particularly millennial men) are shopping and cooking for themselves — and cultivating a real passion for food. They enjoy selecting gourmet goodies and experimenting with culinary creations.

All of which is reflected in the MH study — some 93 percent of men say they now prepare meals for themselves and 77 percent do it for others. Nearly half of them also claim they've watched cooking videos in the last year, up significantly since 2010. You might say the growing "foodie" movement is an equal opportunity revolution.

Man-friendly marketing

While men may be roaming grocery store aisles more, they don't shop the same as women.

For one thing, guys aren't into meal-planning as much. They're more short-term shoppers, buying on impulse with an eye toward today's meal or tomorrow's rather than what's needed for the whole week.

men food shop differently from women
Men food shop differently than women, preferring to buy just enough for the next couple of meals and sticking to brands they know, regardless of price. National Cancer Institute/Wikimedia Commons

They also want to shop quickly — in and out without distractions. They tend to spring for eye-catching products that are most visible on supermarket shelves, foods that will save on prep time and familiar brands. They're less concerned with price than women and will pay more for items that appeal to them.

As a result, both food companies and supermarkets have begun recalibrating their marketing approach to reach more male shoppers.

Food makers are trying new "dude food" packaging — relying on testosterone-fueled buzz words like "powerful" and "strong" and ditching the pastels for bolder, darker colors to catch more male eyes.

Learn more in this video about man-targeted food packaging.

Grocery stores are also rearranging their aisles, displays and signage with man-centric themes designed to spark meal ideas and make it easier for male shoppers to find what they need, such as "lunchbox essentials" and "tonight's dinner." Other supermarkets are grouping related items together, like meats and barbecue sauce. The idea is to create a more seamless and fun man-shopping experience.

Of course, all this brick-and-mortar marketing may be for naught if online shopping trends continue. By far the biggest group of digital shoppers are men aged 18-44, according to a new study.

Whatever their shopping method, male interest in meal-time planning and prep isn't likely to disappear. Men have tasted the empowering joy of selecting and cooking their own food, and they're increasingly all in.