U.S. is graying and that's a worry for the fresh produce industry

U.S. is graying and that's a worry for the fresh produce industry


The country is graying, and that may prove challenging for the fresh produce industry.

The U.S. median age is 38.2 years in 2018, up one year from 37.2 years in 2010.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported :

  • The white alone-or-in-combination population increased by 1 year;
  • The black or African American alone-or-in-combination population grew by 1.4 years;
  • The American Indian and Alaska Native alone-or-in-combination population increased by 2.2 years;
  • The Asian alone-or-in-combination population increased by 1.7 years;
  • The Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone-or-in-combination population increased by 2.6 years.
  • The Hispanic (any race) population experienced an increase in median age of 2.2 years;

The Census Bureau said North Dakota was the only state to see a decline in its median age, from 37.0 years in 2010 to 35.2 in 2018. Maine had the largest increase in median age this decade, going from 42.7 years in 2010 to 44.9 years in 2018, making it the state with the highest median age in the country. Utah had the lowest median age in 2018, at 31.0 years.

The share of the population age 65-and-older was 16% in 2018, growing by 3.2% (1.63 million) in the last year. The 65-and-older age group has increased 30.2% (12.15 million) since 2010. In contrast, during the same period, the under 18 population decreased by 1.1%, or a decline of 782,937 people.

Census Bureau projections reveal that the percent of the population 65 and older will increase to 17% by 2020 and 21% by 2030.

The Census Bureau projects that in 2050, the population aged 65 and older will be 83.7 million, almost double its estimate of 43.1 million in 2012.1

While “seasoned citizens” are typically the best people — the best grandparents, the most wise among us, et cetera — they are not the best consumers of fresh produce. Many are super-frugal, some because they have to be.  The fact that an increasing slice of America is graying isn’t necessarily great news for fresh produce consumption. 

In the Consumer Expenditures report for 2017, the Bureau of Labor statistics said that the 65-year-old plus consumer spent an average of $287 on fresh fruits annually, 9% below the all-consumer median of $314 and lower than all other age groups expect the under 25 demographic, 

For fresh vegetables, the average 65-year-old plus consumer spent an average of $250 per year, 9% below the all-consumer average of $274 and again ranking above only the under-25 consumer.

While everybody always needs to eat, seniors don’t spend as much as in their younger days.
A 2016 Bureau of Labor statistics report says healthcare spending increases with age, while spending on clothing and transportation and contributions and Social Security decrease. Money spent on all food by consumers 75 years and older were $4,349 per year, down 36% compared to food expenditures in the 55 to 64 age group.

With demographic trends working against them, the question looms larger for produce marketers; how can the industry inspire older Americans to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables in their golden years?