Men are increasingly taking over food shopping duties.
A Yahoo survey in 2011 found that 51% of 18 to 64 year old men now call themselves the primary shoppers for their households. So far, there are few reports of testicle shrinkage.
Stores are starting to test dedicated ‘man aisles.’
Marketers like Proctor & Gamble and Kraft are encouraging stores to create ‘male-friendly’ zones stocked with razors, manly-scented grooming products, and convenience foods with added man appeal. Wal-Mart, CVS, Walgreens, and the H-E-B supermarket chain are all installing them in stores in 2012, and Target has been experimenting with them in about 1,000 of their locations. The idea is to create a safe haven within the stores where men won’t have to encounter troubling lady things like Tampax and mustache bleach, or be led astray by probiotic yogurt and frilly tarragon leaves.
As one stereotype falls, another rises to take its place.
Men are no longer the hapless dolts of the household. They can finally be trusted to walk into a supermarket with a list and walk out with more than chips, bacon, and beer.
But apparently men now live under a threat of feminization. Gender roles might have been redefined, but they still don’t want to be caught doing ‘women’s work.’ The male ego needs reassurance; it needs to shop in man-caves carved out from the lavender-scented terrain of pink razors, cotton balls, and rice cakes lest there be emasculation by association.
Evolutionary scientists have applauded the man aisles. They theorize that men and women have different approaches to grocery shopping because men are meant to be hunters, while women, as natural gatherers, are better suited to shopping. The theory goes that man has no interest in strolling the aisles. He’s programmed to treat the supermarket like a prehistoric hunter; he should get in and out quickly and stay in safe territory. Of course we have to forget for the moment that about one in ten men is on the hunt for a good under-eye cream to reduce puffiness.
Last year, the Nielsen Company examined the differences in shopping behavior between the sexes. The study looked at how, where, and when they shop, and what they’re buying. The big surprise was the sameness of the results. While women continue to do the majority of the shopping in every category but convenience stores and gas stations, the purchase patterns are virtually identical, and the differences in shopping frequency are narrowing across all shopping channels.
Look inside one of the new man zones.
The Boston Globe takes us on a tour of the men’s aisle inside a Texas supermarket.