From the Editor: May 2009
By Kristy Nudds
A new perspective can open up new avenues of possibility. One of the
most interesting presentations I have attended in some time was given
by Dr. David Foot, a professor of economics at the University of
Toronto and author of the books Boom, Bust & Echo: How to Profit
from the Coming Demographic Shift and Boom
A new perspective can open up new avenues of possibility. One of the most interesting presentations I have attended in some time was given by Dr. David Foot, a professor of economics at the University of Toronto and author of the books Boom, Bust & Echo: How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Shift and Boom, Bust & Echo: Profiting from the Demographic Shift in the 21st Century at the Chicken Farmers of Ontario annual meeting.
Dr. Foot’s books are based on his research on the economic impacts of demographic change. Foot believes that understanding trends, particularly those large in scope, has everything to do with population demographics – and those who pay attention to the number and needs of certain age groups, and how these needs change as populations age, will be successful in business and in designing effective policies.
Foot took attendees on a demographic tour, showing us how demographic shifts are closely tied to economic spending patterns and desires. When displayed graphically, populations that have consistent birth and death rates are “true” pyramids. When population “booms” (increased birth rate over a period of time), “busts” (decreased birth rate over a period of time) and “echoes” (children of boomers – although birth rate declined, the sheer number of boomers resulted in a small surge that Foot calls an echo), the resulting graphs no longer look like pyramids, but like a vase being formed on a pottery wheel – as time goes on, the base gets thinner, the middle widens and the top becomes quite narrow.
In Canada, the boom group are baby boomers and they represent the largest demographic group. The bust group are those in their 30s to early 40s. The echo group are teens and 20-somethings.
There is some disparity in the population cycles in different regions of the country. For example, Ontario has the biggest echo population, while Eastern Canada has the oldest population in the country.
For agriculture, understanding where certain populations are concentrated and what their nutritional needs are can help focus marketing efforts and production to match consumption.
It can also help with potential export markets and understanding our competitors. Brazil and India, according to Foot, have experienced booms and their population pyramids are more stable. As a result these countries are emerging economic powers. Former powers Germany, Russia, and Japan have declined, having had old populations and low birth rates for several decades now. In comparison with our NAFTA partners, Canada’s population is older. Mexico has a true pyramid, and the echo group is bigger in the U.S.
For a supply-managed sector such as poultry, demographics can play a key role. Female teens in the echo group influenced by activists might not want to eat meat – ever. Baby boomers, as they age, will likely decrease the amount of meat they eat, but shift from red meats to poultry and eggs to meet their protein requirements. in applying Foot’s theories, we see the opportunity for niche markets may be stronger in areas of the country where older populations with more disposable income exist.
To view Foot’s demographic pyramids, go to www.footwork.com – They will make you see trends and buying habits in a whole new light.