Households Shrink, Singles Proliferate

Jul 30, 2002

During the past 30 years, the demographic of singles of all ages has grown, reports ACNielsen’s Consumer Insight publication. Forty percent or 82 million adults are unmarried in the U.S. today, resulting in the greatest number of single households ever in the United States. There are several reasons for this trend, including delayed marriage, higher divorce rates, a hesitance to remarry after being widowed or divorced, and an overall increase in cohabitation among couples.

The typical image of young singles is often one of energetic, trendy club-goers. However, this group of households with only one adult member who is under 35 years of age also shows purchases that reflect an interest in preparing healthy and interesting meals. In addition to the categories one would expect to find, such as contraceptives, pregnancy test kits, wine and beer, this demographic group also ranked higher than average in purchases of fresh pasta, herbs and sprouts.

The number of middle-age single households with only one adult age 35-54 has increased significantly since 1970. The primary drivers of growth in this demographic are divorce and postponement of marriage. Today’s middle-aged single leads an active lifestyle. Similar to the young singles, some of the high-incidence products for middle-age singles include beer, Canadian whiskey, hair coloring, and eye care.

As a result of technology innovations and an overall shift in attitude toward a more health-conscious society, life expectancy rates have increased over the past 30 years, and the population of seniors in the U.S. is growing. Many seniors today are living single because they have been widowed. Older singles are described as households with one member, 55 years and older. With today’s emphasis on health and exercise, however, single people may hardly consider themselves to be of senior status when they reach the age of 55. Many of the top category producers in this group are traditionally associated with an older demographic, including various remedies, canned fruits, alcohol and denture adhesives.

Moderator Comment: What opportunities do the various singles’ markets – young, middle-aged and seniors – represent for retail and CPG companies?

Be careful not to brush broad strokes of these groups.
For example, we know of at least one 65+ single that headed down to Asbury Park
to see the Boss and the E-Street Band play today. “Tramps like us, baby we were
born to run.” [George
Anderson – Moderator

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