Q&A with Kenneth W. Gronbach

World-renowned demographer Kenneth W. Gronbach discusses his NAFEM Symposium keynote ‘Charting the course through demographic change’ with Michael Jones

Why do professionals in a variety of different sectors need to learn about demographic change? Why is this such an important issue?
Demographics precipitate economics. It is not the other way around. Economics is a symptom. Demographics are a cause. Demography is the study of the size and make up of human markets and is therefore the most important concern of anyone who deals with people, employs people or who sells anything to people.

Why is it especially relevant for foodservice and hospitality professionals, including FCSI members, to understand the impact of demographic change? 
A working knowledge of demographics will supply this industry with a knowledge of
how many people they are going to feed and house going forward. It is a very accurate forecasting tool for foodservice and hospitality planners. People are markets and markets are people. Their size and personality will dictate the design of products and services.

Can you give me an instance of how a lack of understanding with regards to demographic change has become prevalent in the foodservice industry? 
McDonald’s is suffering a store sales decline because fertility has declined in the United States in the last eight years. No kids, no happy meals.

Conversely, which brands have responded well to demographic change? 
Food markets and restaurants perceived as offering fresh, organic, natural and wholesome foods have responded well to the huge demands of 86 million Generation Ys. Generation Ys (Millennials) want to eat better. Culturally, 65 million US Latinos only eat fresh and shop for food twice as often as whites.

How can employers engage better with Millennials? 
They need to be inclusive, honest, empathetic and transparent. And Gen Y won’t work for mean people. There are major business culture changes ahead. Big time.

Why are you so passionate about this topic? Why does it matter?
Economists are accurate 20% of the time and are considered experts. Demographers are accurate 80% of the time and are overlooked. I want justice!

Tell me what you’re most looking forward to about visiting Orlando and NAFEM.
I can’t wait to get in front of the NAFEM audience to tell them they have a very bright future if they are proactive and prepare for the new markets. Demography is destiny!

Kenneth W. Gronbach is president of KGC Direct.

Michael Jones

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