Canadian Pizza Magazine

Maketing Insights: Cohort Tracking

Michelle Brisebois   

Features Business and Operations Marketing

Cohort Tracking

If you’ve caught yourself complaining about the loud music the kids are playing or starting to avoid certain foods because they suddenly disagree with you – welcome to the wonderful world of demographics.

If you’ve caught yourself complaining about the loud music the kids are playing or starting to avoid certain foods because they suddenly disagree with you – welcome to the wonderful world of demographics.

Demographics are by definition: “the physical characteristics of a population such as age, sex, marital status, family size, education, geographic location and occupation.”

It’s not about how you feel about your education or your gender – it’s basically all about your name, rank and serial number.


David Foot is a Canadian Economics professor who wrote the book Boom, Bust and Echo to illuminate how Canadian demographics are shaping our country. As he puts it “demographics assume that we tend to act our age.”

This means that we all tend to start school around age five, go to post secondary in our late teens and get married and have children in our late twenties and thirties. We tend to retire around the same age and “meet our maker” by the time we’re in our 70s and 80s.

The key for business success resides in using this information is to figure out when there are large segments of the population who share a similar demographic profile behaving the same way at the same time.

Have you noticed that you’re starting to go to more weddings these days? It’s probably related to the fact that Echo Boomers – born in the 1980s and early ’90s are hitting their late 20s and this is when most people marry for the first time. They’re all starting to do it, which means if you’ve been thinking about targeting the wedding sector – now would be a great time to do so.

Foodservice is greatly impacted by demographics so it’s probably a worth while exercise to check in with a few of our cohorts to see where they’re at today and how this might be impacting the way they eat.

Millennials (Born 1996-today)
These are the children of the baby bust generation, so it’s a smaller number in terms of population counts.  They range from toddler to 12 in age, so the first of this group are just now starting to exercise their independence in terms of food choices.

What will the effect be?
Right now because they’re so young – the impact is minimal. It’ll be important to pay attention to how their food consumption patterns are shaped by today’s issues. Their parents are often feeding them organic foods and local produce so they’ll likely come of age demanding this same level of quality in their food service choices.

Echo Boomers (1981-1995)
These are the children of the baby boomers. The first ones, born in 1980, will reach age 29 in 2009. This is the average age of first marriage in Canada. So you can expect the number of weddings to accelerate from 2009, peaking in 2019 when the peak of the echo boomers (born in 1990) marry.

Approximately six or seven years later, echo boomers will start having children and we can expect that births will start to increase around 2015, 2016.

What will the effect be?
Echo boomers who are teenagers now will shift from solitary meals to purchasing as a couple and then a family. As they buy homes and cocoon to pay them off – home entertaining will be a solid sector for foodservice.

Family-friendly restaurants will be making a come back in the next 10 years, as there are more little ones in tow.

Technologically adept – these kids were born cable-ready so businesses that have a strong e-marketing strategy will likely target echo boomers more effectively. Pizza operations represented four out of the top 10 mobile searches from October 2007-June 2008 (source: Ipsos Foodservice Digest).

Offer “stag and doe” or wedding shower packages for delivery.

Baby Bust (1965-1980)
Believe it or not, these folks are also known as generation X. The term was coined in a book of the same title written in the ’80s about those people born right after the baby boom. There are fewer of them; they’ve been stuck behind the baby boomers in the work force so their ascent to the top of the corporate food chain has been slower.

They’re in their 30s and 40s now – knee-deep in ferrying kids to activities and trying to pay the mortgage while socking what they can away in an RRSP for the future.

What will the effect be?
Fast forward 10 years and these people will be parents of teenagers and young adult kids just leaving the nest. For the foreseeable future, they’ll be juggling demanding careers, busy families and won’t have much recreational time. Easy, healthy meal solutions will be welcomed – after all, the middle aged spread is settling in here. 

Baby Boomers
This cohort represents one-third of the Canadian population.

Businesses have focused on targeting because they represent such a large consumer base. The front end boomers are in their 60s, just a few years into their retirement. The younger boomers are about to become empty nesters.

What will the effect be?
Smaller portions, healthy options and value for money are front and centre in their choice of eating establishments. Value doesn’t necessarily mean cheap – it means great quality at a reasonable price. Prix Fixe menus that include appetizers and desserts as one price along with the entrée are gaining popularity.
If interest rates stay low it means their investments won’t be growing quickly so they’ll be mindful of how to spend it. 

World War II (1928-1945)
These customers are over 65 years of age for the most part and represent a smaller portion of the population in terms of numbers. Many of them are dealing with the normal health issues related to aging.
What will the effect be?

Accessibility, easy to read menus, softer breads and pizza crusts. Delivery will be appreciated for those who don’t want to go out.

The degree to which you choose to target one cohort over another depends totally on the location of your business and your operational strengths and objectives. If you’re close to a college then you’ll want to think about echo boomers for the next few years to be followed by millennials.

The key is to let your business ebb and flow much like the population around you. It’s all about acting our age.

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