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How Teen-Agers Can Smarten Up on Those Trips to the Marketplace : Experts Offer Shopping Pointers

October 13, 1988|ROSE DOSTI | Times Staff Writer

The average supermarket contains about 20,000 items from which the consumer must choose. Is the consumer confused by the array? Are consumers making the right choices for the health and welfare of the family?

According to Bettye Nowlin, representative of the American Dietetic Assn. in Los Angeles, there is reason for concern.

"With 7 out of 10 mothers--more than 50% of all married women with children--working outside the home, teen-agers have stepped in to shop for the family groceries," Nowlin said. "This concerns us because the supermarket is a confusing place to shop if you don't know what you are doing."

While teen-agers are doing a fairly decent job of shopping, knowledge and expertise are required to make nutritionally wise food choices that affect the entire family, Nowlin believes. "Since many teen-agers are doing most of the family grocery shopping, they do need advice," she said.

Teens Purchase Different Brands

A study conducted by the Teenage Research Unlimited in Lake Forest, Ill., indicates that in 1988 teen-agers, the prime family shopper today, will be spending $47.7 billion of the family funds for groceries and other household items, most of it in the grocery store. The study showed that teen-agers spend 1.38 hours a week shopping for the family, about 1.05 for males and 1.72 for females. The teen shoppers purchase just about every item a family might need at a grocery store, the study showed. But they may or may not be purchasing Mom's favorite brand products and they are making independent product choices.

According to Peter Zollo, executive vice president of Teenage Research Unlimited, "The studies are showing that more and more young shoppers are making major independent decisions in the supermarket and the numbers are on the increase. And they are showing a sense of responsibility. When they go to shop, they go with a generic list prepared by mothers. However, 56% of the shoppers are splitting their decisions between brands Mom buys and those they themselves decide upon. Only 11% follow Mom's shopping list exclusively.

"We're still exploring the group who does not ever purchase their parent's brand choices," said Zollo.

Teen-agers wield extraordinary influence on what is purchased, whether or not they do the shopping, the study showed. About 28% of the females studied have some influence over what brand detergent a parent will come home with. About 47% influence their parent's purchase of cookies, 32% of salty snacks, 55% of cereal, 44% of juice, 20% of soup, 72% of soft drinks, 26% of frozen dinners, 28% of salad dressing, 11% of canned pasta and 38% of cheese.

"The marketers need to reach teens through advertising in teen media, and develop advertising executions that appeal to teens and very few are doing it," Zollo said. "These numbers will only get higher each year. Because of mothers working outside the home we can expect more and more teens spending the family grocery budget, whether we like it or not. After all, teen-agers have the time to spend waiting in a grocery line. It's a responsibility that is being forced upon them." Also interesting, according to Zollo, is that the teen population is rapidly declining, so per capital expenditure is actually higher than before. "That gives stronger meaning to the $47.7 billion they spend in the market," said Zollo.

(The teen-age population is expected to continue to decrease until 1992, at which time there will be an increase until the turn-of-the-century, according to Zollo).

Teen-agers, Zollo said, are far more sophisticated shoppers than is often believed. "Our studies are showing that their attitudes toward health and important nutritional issues such as sodium intake, are as much a concern to them as their parents.

"They worry about what ingredients go into their bodies these days," he said. In fact, about one-third of the kids are more concerned in 1988 than they were last year as to whether the cereal they eat is good for them.

About 42% also purchased frozen meals. About 39% brought home salad dressing, 42% cheese and yogurt, 51% cereal and 28% rice.

Even though teen-oriented groceries are high on the list, they also are becoming good label shoppers.

Teen-Oriented Products

Among the teen-oriented products strictly for their own use, the study indicated the following: 32% purchase cookies for themselves; 35% purchase potato chips; 22% tortilla chips; 33% ice cream; 5% buy salad dressings for their own use and 7% buy frozen dinners for themselves.

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