LES Butler doesn't watch supermarket specials or shop with a list. He doesn't care about unit pricing and he doesn't plan meals. He's brand loyal, but doesn't clip coupons.
Well, he clips them, sometimes, but he never uses them.
Butler's shopping habits are not unusual. In fact, the 28-year-old communications director for Howard University Cancer Center is stereotypical. When more than 13,000 shoppers in four cities (Baltimore, Los Angeles, Houston and Minneapolis) were observed in action for a Food Marketing Institute survey, it was discovered that 40 percent of the shoppers were men. That finding had "shock value" for the food industry, according to Tony Adams, director of marketing research for Campbell's Soup Co.
And most of the men shop the way Butler does, which is to say, not the way women always have. It's these male quirks that pose a dilemma for marketing moguls who, until this study was released late last year, thought they knew their territory.
The December 1982 study was conducted for FMI, a trade association representing 1,100 food wholesalers and retailers, by Dr. Valarie Zeithaml, a Texas A & M marketing professor. The survey included 1,500 random interviews and revealed that male shoppers:
Spend little time in the grocery store.
Don't consider shopping particularly important.
Spend more per family member per trip than women, but spend less on total weekly expenditures.
Industry dropped its collective jaw and now stands relatively unprepared to deal with the discoveries. "We're in the process of developing an analysis of the food world of men," says Campbell's Adams. Until now, many companies considered "the female head of household" to be the person at whom marketing research should be directed. Whatever she preferred set the trends. Now, Campbell's will cooperate with People magazine, a dual-audience publication, on a survey to learn how men influence shopping.
The FMI survey discovered, no surprise, that "some men were single, and shopped because they had to shop," according to Zeithaml. "Then we had married men who'd assumed that role and were getting into it."
But they have a representative shopping style. Coupons, for instance, are something that men don't want to deal with. Zeithaml says men often don't know how coupons work and think, "This is too complicated for something as simple as grocery shopping."
"It's unproductive," says Washington lawyer Bob Burns. "It takes too much time."
Like Butler--and most men shoppers--Burns is brand loyal. Nothing but Dannon yogurt will do. "It's force of habit," he says. "It minimizes the time I have to think about it." The yogurt satisfies him, he says, and he doesn't like to "experiment by buying different brands just to see the difference."
Butler, a 28-year-old single shopper, isn't bucking any trends when he buys national brand canned peas. "I know they taste better," he says. He took a chance with generics and was burned, he says. "I did it with peas and they were dry. I did it with jelly and it was watery."
He says he does plan his meals. If he knows he's going to be home for dinner and he gets off work early enough, he'll "think about it in the car."
That, too, is typical. Planning assumes a new definition when it comes to men shoppers. It means deciding the dinner menu before they get home; better, but not imperative, is knowing before they get to the grocery store.
Lists are obviously contraindicated. "I don't prepare a list," says Burns. "I sit down before I go to the store, and I think about what I need, then I go buy it." Pause. "I usually find when I get home I've forgotten one or two of the things I need."
If men had lists, there'd be no time to read them. The survey found that men shop in much less time than their female counterparts, and in metropolitan Washington, men fit the picture. Burns says long lines are the only thing that slow him down, unless he's having trouble finding an item and he has to search for a suitable substitute. Otherwise, he says, he spends between 15 and 30 minutes shopping.
Harold Wilson, a 44-year-old management consultant who splits the shopping chore 50-50 with his female roommate, is more committed than the average male, but he says that women linger longer in the supermarket--particularly at the meat counter and the magazine racks--than he does. He makes no list. "I know what I want and I go and pick it up," he says, making the shopping trip as short as possible.
Wilson compares prices and switches brands with no deference to the stereotypical male, but like his brother shoppers, he doesn't depend on advertising to check special prices or sales. A spectacular sale "may catch my eye" once he's in the supermarket. Ham for 89 cents a pound or 39-cent chicken might cause him to change menu plans.
This in-store appeal may be about the only way to reach the male shopper. Stouffer's frozen food company, for one, takes advantage of this inclination with an androgynous stab at enticing the fitness-conscious. In its promotion "shape up for summer," the in-store advertising consists of living color pictures of the food, with no associated gender. Elene Coccari, manager of consumer affairs for Stouffer's, says this is part of the company's "dual-audience" advertising, which also includes ads in such magazines as Life and Reader's Digest.
For the most part, however, men don't seem to respond to normal marketing techniques.
"I've become rather cynical about advertising," says Wilson.
Food advertisers needn't be discouraged, however. Men are shopping neophytes, ready for priming. "They have no excess baggage," says Adams, they aren't preconditioned to buy a certain way. But if Washington-area men are any indication, store displays are the most effective advertising tool reaching the male audience. Television commercials nearly always ignore men shoppers, says Wilson. In-store interviews about products, for instance, focus on women. Les Butler says none of his favorite periodicals carry food information.
While Ragu coupons may not be appearing in Sports Illustrated, the food industry may be more sensitive these days to its new audience. Campbell's Adams, giving an example of how the company reaches men, cites the V-8 sponsored road races as one way to reach a dual audience.
In general, advertisers say they will begin to gear promotion toward a general audience, rather than targeting a specific sex. The emphasis may turn more to personality types--the fitness buff, the dieter--and less to the family role.
One reason that men seem to be shopping more, say several food producers, is that they are becoming more acclimated in the kitchen. Here are a few of the recipes that they may feel most comfortable with. WILSON'S CHICKEN A L'ORANGE (4 to 6 servings) 2 1/2- to 3 1/2-pound broiler-fryer chicken 3 oranges, halved Freshly ground black pepper Dried rosemary
Squeeze juice from oranges and pour over chicken. Stuff the cavity with orange halves. Place any oranges that don't fit into the cavity around the chicken in the pan. Grind black pepper generously over the bird and season well with rosemary. Cover the pan tightly and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove cover and return to oven for 15 minutes. Serve with wild rice or roasted potatoes. SPAGHETTI SAUCE (4 servings) 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 medium onion 8 ounces fresh mushrooms 1/2 green pepper 1 large clove garlic 6 ounces canned tomato paste 8 ounces canned tomato sauce 2 bay leaves 1/2 teaspoon each oregano and basil 2 tablespoons chopped parsley 1/4 cup parmesan cheese 2 teaspoons sugar 2 tablespoons wine or wine vinegar Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in large skillet. Chop onion and add to skillet. Wash and chop mushrooms and add to skillet along with chopped green pepper. Mince garlic and add to other vegetables, cooking until soft. All water from vegetables should evaporate. Add tomato paste, sauce, herbs, cheese, sugar, wine vinegar and a little water to desired consistency. Cook 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over pasta with extra parmesan cheese. POTATOES ROMANOFF (6 to 8 servings) 6 large potatoes, peeled, boiled and cubed 2 cups large-curd cottage cheese 1 cup sour cream 1 to 2 cloves garlic, put through a press 1 teaspoon salt 2 to 3 scallions, finely chopped Butter for casserole 1 cup grated cheddar cheese Paprika for sprinkling on top
The potatoes should be boiled until they are just barely tender, not yet soft. Cut them up into rather small cubes and allow to cool slightly. Combine them with the cottage cheese, sour cream, garlic, salt and scallions. Turn the mixture into a buttered casserole and sprinkle the grated cheddar cheese over the top. Sprinkle with paprika and bake at 350 degrees for about 1/2 hour. Serve hot. From "The Vegetarian Epicure," by Anna Thomas GARLIC SHRIMP (2 servings) 1 dozen large shrimp, shelled 1/4 cup butter 2 cloves minced garlic 2 tablespoons minced garlic A few drops hot red pepper sauce
Wash shrimp and place in a small baking dish. Melt butter and add remaining ingredients. Pour over shrimp. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Spoon extra butter over hot rice or pasta. HERBED CORNISH HENS (2 servings) 2 cornish game hens 2 onions 1/4 cup butter 1/4 cup white wine 1 teaspoon tarragon Salt and pepper to taste
Place hens on a rack in a shallow baking pan. Place one onion in each cavity. Place in a 350-degree oven. Melt butter and add remaining ingredients. Brush some of the mixture over the hens. Baste occasionally every 10 minutes or so (when you run out of the melted butter, use the pan drippings). Bake 45 minutes in all.