The problem with the new "man aisles" of food items catering to the male shopper or gender-free shopping is that the food put out to catch the notice of the increased number of male shoppers isn't always very healthy. You find overly-salted cans of tomato sauce, sugar-wracked frosted flakes of corn (highly heated or processed cereal packages), Cap'n Crunch cold cereal, Doritos, beer, bottled water, and many types of snacks, convenience food packages, and pretty much the same type of food you'd find in convenience stores or truck stops. Is the supermarket "man-aisle" really representing the standard Western diet?
You won't find natural foods, books on health, nutrition as medicine, or organic, no-added salt foods. It's usually the same type of processed snack food you'd see advertised often to children or teenagers as snacks, such as the highly salted beef jerky, and a few processed condiments, chips, and sweetened cold cereals.
Check out the January 9, 2013 article, "Man Aisle: Grocery Store Creates Section To Cater To Male Shoppers," or the Yahoo News article, "'Man aisles' coming to supermarkets soon - Yahoo! News." Marketing to the male shopper doesn't have to mean offering snack food formerly advertised to children to the man who's doing the shopping or is a stay-at-home dad. He'll just bring up all those canned foods, processed food packages, and other items containing lots of salt, sugar, syrup, or sometimes even trans fats.
If you check out the photo in the article, "Man Aisle: Grocery Store Creates Section To Cater To Male Shoppers," you will see the big picture of what types of foods are offered to men, and they're mostly not foods to unclog the men's arteries. Also, there are no green vegetables or even cans of no-added salt beans in BPA-free cans.
Men see the usual packaged items you'd usually see in the inner aisles of supermarkets, such as processed, packaged and canned foods with items usually found in foods sold at fast-food eateries or burger joints. Will a man tend to buy of box of processed dried mashed potatoes before he'll pick up a fresh sweet potato -- because it's easier to spot on an aisle not difficult to find? Look at the products displayed on the edges of various man aisles. Those items attract a man's attention.
Almost none of the foods would be on the list of heart-healthy reversal diets for men with the usual chronic health conditions that men are showing up with at their doctor's offices. For example, you'd see cans of tomato sauce rather than tomato paste. The difference is tomato paste usually has no added salt. And canned diced tomatoes many times contains added calcium chloride to keep the red coloring, which in some people can significantly raise blood pressure.
Markets are testing "main aisles"
Men usually don't buy food packages that have images on labels featuring women. And men may even think vegetables are too girlish, and instead prefer meats and chili to canned healthier foods, if they're not shopping in the produce or organic produce aisles. How many men buy organic produce if the price is higher than the cheapest fruits and vegetables that they see?
Not too many men walk down the same aisles as a lot of women who are well-read in nutrition and health. And you have women raised in families where the only vegetables on the dinner table were potatoes, biscuits and gravy, or pasta, seafood, steaks, sausages, hot dogs, or burgers. Not too many men are buying ingredients to make beet burgers unless they've been vegan or frequent raw food eateries.
The man aisles usually are found in the larger markets where prices are low, not in the high end stores. For example, in Sacramento, you won't find man aisles in the Sacramento Natural Food Co-op or the Whole Foods Market. Those stores are neutral in gender.
You find men and women looking at similar foods which are higher priced, and most of the produce and other foods are organic at those stores or in bulk items. More women shop at the upscale organic food markets or natural food stores, but there are an increasing number of men buying food there as well as nutritional supplements.
You have men who are personal trainers, in the healthcare industry, or trained in nutrition who buy supplements and organic foods at special stores, including the health stores catering to body builders and older adults looking for more of a naturopathic approach to using food for health or food as medicine.
Main aisles usually show up in stores where the food costs less, such as Wal-Mart and Target or Walgreens. For example, Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble Co. began testing "man aisles" in 2009 and is expanding the program into some Wal-Mart, Target and Walgreens stores as well as other chains in the U.S. and Canada in 2012. The man aisle puts all men's products, including Proctor and Gamble competitors, in one place, with shelf displays and even small TV screens to guide men to the appropriate skin-care items.
How is the man aisle decorated?
According to the Gawker article, "New Grocery Store ‘Man Aisle’ Represents Pinnacle of Western Civilization," , "The man aisle is slightly colder than room temperature and smells faintly of cedar and wet dog. The shelves are eight feet high. There is a basket filled with old baseball gloves and hammers and a rack filled with cassette tapes with pictures of trucks on them. In some places there are small fires."
The article continues to describe the body language of the shoppers in the "man aisle" as possibly protecting themselves from the onslaught of sales pressure of the decor by standing with arms crossed, and as the article described, "skeptical looks on their faces." Can you believe this behavior? The article notes, "Sometimes they sing rounds together, and roll an empty keg down the aisle. No one has ever left."
Research on the reason for main aisles instead of neutral aisles in food markets, is because of the rising number of male shoppers. You can check out the several studies on the rise in the number of males who shop for food. Men also may have a problem with the type of lists women give them because of the male tendency not to ask store employees for direction once in a supermarket.
If a man gets a list with fine details written by a woman, he may not know which aisle has the food or which brand to choose, since a lot of men don't read the small print on the ingredients label. A lot of women not trained in which healthier food substitutions to make don't read the ingredients label either, unless they're told why they need to look for items on the label such as no partially hydrogenated fats in the pie-crust mix.
Unless the man is a chef in a health-oriented restaurant featuring specific food combinations or raw vegan foods, the man usually will pick a brand familiar from prior family use, early childhood eating habits, or from the display. Or the man might grab an impulse item at the counter.
The inclination may be similar to the reluctance of some males to ask for directions from strangers when driving, trying to figure out how to solve the problem without help. Women who shop often in the same store may be more familiar with the natural food aisles, for example, in various Sacramento supermarkets or natural food stores. Check out the January 9, 2013 article, "Manhattan supermarket introduces 'man-only' aisle."
How do you tailor a food aisle for the male shopper?
One market mentioned in the article on Manhattan supermarkets catering to "man aisles" mentions the Westside Market's locations in Manhattan (110th Street and Broadway location). That market's "man aisle1," according to the article, is stocked with barbecue needs, hot sauces, beer, cereal, soda, beef jerky, condiments and chips. Notice, nobody is putting up signs saying too much BBQ could lead to stomach cancer from foods cooked at high heat.
The men's shopping aisle appears catered to men who BBQ meats and need sauces and beverages that go with BBQ. Men who cook for their friends who were brought up in a family eating BBQ and are used to the taste or eating habit go with it and see what's familiar.
Notice, man aisles don't have bottles of cod liver oil or signs about getting DHA or information about raw vegan foods, because a lot of men aren't familiar with eating foods other than meats, sauces, pasta, chili, and beer. Some men make a beeline for the large sacks of beans because they were raised with this type of food.
If you check out the Manhattan supermarket, you'll notice the article on the concept notes that "the market has also created a "Men's Supermarket Survival Guide." A press release claims the guide contains "helpful tips and tricks for saving time, money and picking out the best ingredients."
You may also want also want to read the article on man aisles in supermarkets from the magazine, Business Insider. Most men know where they want to go in any given food market, whether it's where they've shopped for years or is in an ethnic food market. The men aren't going to get lost in a food store.
What men need is to know how to make healthier food ingredient substitutions so they don't keep buying food overloaded with trans fats, too highly salted, or otherwise not want their arteries need to thrive. But the trend is working very well at Westside Market in Manhattan because the clerks did have to restock some of the items, according to the New York Post.
You'll find packaged cold cereals such as Wheaties and many brands of beers, but not gluten-free food or bulk food items such as red quinoa in the man aisles. And you'll find beer and bottled water along with tomato sauce and various types of chips.
The question remains what foods do men need most that would go in a "man aisle" rather than a neutral aisle that appeals to anyone? After all, men may shop for razors and personal hygiene items, but they usually aren't not bringing home feminine items for the wife, or diapers for the new baby, unless she's not able to shop herself for personal hygiene and baby-related items.
When it comes to food, most men know what they eat is what they've been eating or should according to their doctor's diet items list. Most men shop for specific foods if the taste appeals to them. And most supermarkets are set up for family shopping, usually women and children or single adults of varying ages.
A younger man shopping for a dinner party of other singles isn't usually looking for incontinence pants. Supermarkets should have more services for people with disabilities such as helping those who are blind shop for items on their lists and aisles wide enough for wheel chairs. And as for seniors, a lot who can no longer walk to a food market would love home deliveries if they were affordable.
When men are photographed buying food, many times the photos are of men buying snacks or beer instead of healthier foods. The question is, are men being marketed to with similar products offered to children and teenagers with the exception of the beer -- for the purpose of motivating men to come back and buy more of the same foods focused on taste habits? Are man aisles with all those snacks distracting men from eating their vegetables, which men may think of as too girlish -- unless the men are runners, athletes, and personal trainers?