I was purchasing a funnel cake at my state fair a couple of weeks ago. Admittedly, I find it hard to justify paying $6 for a funnel cake, but it has somehow become part of the fair experience to me. Anyway, I justified the expense even more by telling myself that my nine-year old who was going to share it with me needed to have the "total" experience, as well.
The reason I mention this is because of the conversation I overheard while awaiting my funnel cake. I’ll admit I’m guilty of stereotyping the ladies in this carnival booth because of their tattoos and the fact they work in a carnival food booth that features a lot of deep-fried products and sugar, but I was taken back when I heard them discussing organic foods. The one lady said she’d gone to buying all organic for her family, while the other said she knew she should, but hadn't because of the prices. The third chimed in to say organic is much healthier because of no pesticides, hormones and the like.
Then this lady with a significant number of body piercings added, “I'm really concerned about how the animals are being treated, some of the things that corporate farmers do is just plain cruel.”
I like to listen to consumer experts on evolving trends and I’ve never really doubted their opinions but I do retain skepticism. But after listening to these three ladies discuss nutrition and food-buying decisions, perhaps I’m too much of a skeptic. After all, these aren’t soccer moms in Boulder or Berkeley!
I still remember my shock when I was in grad school and my new bride and I had to start buying beef from the grocery store instead of removing our homegrown beef from the freezer. For one thing, it was a lot more expensive than I realized, and some of it wasn't very good!
Trends within our industry aren’t all that difficult to ascertain; sometimes they’re hard to accept but most of the time all it requires is an open mind and a willingness to talk to those outside our segments. Everyone recognizes the consumer is the ultimate arbitrator of our success and failure, but I honestly don't understand the mindset of that young professional woman raising a family in a suburb of Philadelphia. Nor do I understand the thoughts of the widow existing on Social Security and worrying about paying for a drug bill that costs hundreds of dollars each month.
And as a father of a beautiful, smart, charming young girl who is eight, I'm already beginning to understand that I'm probably utterly clueless about those young ladies’ buying habits or attitudes toward beef, food or agriculture in general.
Tom Peters, the business consultant famous for pointing out the obvious that most of us fail to see, has been on a crusade the last several years about how the most underutilized asset of any industry or business is women. I’ve dismissed this point a little, as well. After all, while ag has traditionally been a very male-dominated field, women are playing a major role in leadership positions within the industry.
However, when it comes to the marketing aspect, one must ask not only whether we have women in key decision-making positions, but whether those women are representative of women in general.