If you’re a person who doesn’t like tattoos and body piercings, looks suspiciously at people with dark skin, doesn’t like to hear people speaking languages other than English, and hates people who text message while in conversation with you, you’re in for a troubled future.
“Get over it.”
That’s the advice of Ken Gronbach, a demographer who’s become a favorite of apple growers because he predicts a rosy future for them—if they’re willing to accept what’s happening in the world and go with it.
Gronbach spoke during the U.S. Apple Association’s Crop Outlook and Marketing Conference in Chicago in 2011. He so enthralled the audience, he was called back for a repeat performance this year.
He was the keynote speaker, bluntly delivering 90 minutes of one-liners filled with good and bad news about the emerging shape of the United States population. The good news is, it’s good for apples.
“Go fishing where the fish are,” he advised. He sees a massive domestic market for apples among African Americans and Hispanics and the growing number of Generation Y and Z people (those born after 1985), all of whom are choosing fresh fruit as a healthful snack over stuff we all call junk food. He thinks the apple industry ought to specifically target them with advertising.
There have been 100 million Americans born since 1985, plus a massive influx of more than 50 million immigrants, both legal and illegal, a movement of people that far surpasses the 78.2 million Americans born during the baby boomer years from 1945 to 1965. The boomer generation—which likes apples but eats fewer now—is receding and in the future will do more to influence the housing market in the South than the apple market.
Interestingly, the United States is one of the world’s few developed countries in which the combination of births and immigration have led to growth of a young, vital population. Population control measures, either voluntary or mandated by government, have led to less-than-replacement-level growth in countries like China, Japan, Russia, and all the countries of Europe.
Rather than being worried about exporting to those countries, American apple growers should look at home. “You’ve got a monster market in your backyard—right here, right now, for apples,” Gronbach said.
“Russia is cooked. It won’t be a country in 40 years. It’s a net mortality country. China has inverted the pyramid,” he said.
Rather than a family having four grandparents, several sets of parents, and lots of kids, the Chinese family has four grandparents, two parents, and one child. And among those children, there’s a surplus of 34 million young males who will never have families of their own.
China has a massive elderly population and no “heavy lifters”—working people—to care for them.
“I wouldn’t depend on China for my food supply,” he said. “Manufacturing will return to the United States. It has to. It already is returning.” Unlike the United States, which augmented the small numbers of Generation X (1965-1985) workers with an influx of Catholic Hispanic immigrants, with good family values and a huge work ethic, to do the menial work, the Europeans augmented theirs with Muslims from North Africa. The United States got the better choice, Gronbach said.
“Latinos are aspiring and will assimilate into U.S. culture within twenty years,” he said. “The United States economy will benefit from the contribution of the Latino culture as they advance socioeconomically. Latinos shop for food more often and favor fresh products. They are a huge growing market for apples.”
“We need immigration,” he said, “but we need to control it. We should look to Canada, which has done it very well.”
“Bigotry is an enemy to prosperity,” he said. “Oppression is expensive. The United States needs to cultivate as many heavy lifters as possible, especially in the Generation X age range. How quickly can we advance the Latinos and other immigrants?”
Gronbach is similarly enthralled by the kids of Generation Y, born 1985 to 2004, now becoming parents.
“They are very green, humanitarian, and do not see race or color,” he said. “They understand nutrition and will demand transparency. They will be hard to brand. They speak cyber as their first language. Meat counters will disappear because they won’t touch raw meat. But they will change the way apples are marketed and consumed.”
Gronbach is not averse to telling his audience what the numbers tell him. Here are some examples:
• Housing and the economy will recover within the next three years. Young people need to find good jobs, move out, and buy homes, and millions of baby boomers will retire and move to warm climates—leaving jobs to fill, homes to rent, and new homes to be built.
• The biggest generation in the history of the United States, Generation Y, will start to marry, enter the workforce, and consume as the economy recovers.
• Manufacturing will return to the United States.
• Wealthy immigrants will flood into the United States, and to the Americas, South and North.
• One-third of the U.S. population, Latinos and African-Americans, will advance socioeconomically as never before.
• And all these people will love fresh apples.
Those interested in exploring Gronbach’s ideas further can find his books, The Age Curve: How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Storm and Common Census: The Counter-Intuitive Guide to Generational Marketing. A new book is coming next year. •