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The New American Family


When you think of the typical American family, what comes to mind?  A husband and wife with two or three children and a dog?  Think again.

The American family is changing before our eyes, reflecting powerful cultural, demographic and economic shifts as well as changing social values.  It is far different than the image that Hollywood and the world of advertising have portrayed for decades.

Diversity is becoming the norm.  Families are behaving differently.  They are a mosaic that is not easily defined but must be understood by consumer companies as the “traditional American family” gives way to new realities.

Campbell’s Consumer and Customer Insights Department (CCID) at Campbell has spent time researching and understanding these new families so that Campbell can keep offering foods and beverages to meet their needs.

Let’s take a look at some lingering misconceptions about the American family.

Myth:  Most households have kids.

Fact:  Today, 55% of American households are adult only.  No children in the house.  No diapers to clean. More freedom and financial flexibility, as well as a willingness to try new flavors and foods.  Many of these people are Baby Boomers, but one-third of this group is younger than 50.

Myth:  First comes love, second comes marriage.

Fact: Less than half of American households are married, down from 78% at the midpoint of the 20th century.  Husbands and wives are optional, especially in the Millennial generation.

Myth:  Families of four is the norm with two parents and two children.

Fact: The American family is shrinking, down to an average of 2 ½ persons per household from nearly 3 ½ in 1950.  At the same time, the number of single parents is rising and more than one-quarter of American households with children are headed by single moms.

Myth:  Most newborns in America are Caucasian.

Fact:  More than half of babies born in 2011 in the U.S. were non-White for the first time in history, led by births in Hispanic households, a trend that is expected to continue. We’re seeing an increasing number of families that are multicultural or mixed-race, and Millennials are the most ethnically diverse generation in the nation’s history. Not only do Millennials have exposure to diverse foods, but they seek adventure through taste.

Myth: There aren’t many households headed by same-sex couples.

Fact: There are least 1 million same-sex households and that number is expected to grow. Same-sex households are generally well-educated and willing to pay for premium experiences. These families are also discerning with their dollars, choosing to spend with companies whose values align to theirs.

Myth:  The extended family is a thing of the past.

Fact:  We’re seeing a comeback in multi-generational households where three generations or more are living under one roof.  More than 7 million households in the U.S., comprising more than 50 million people.

Myth:  Traditional gender roles aren’t going away.

Fact:  The evolution of the modern male is redefining the man’s role in the American family and how they see themselves.  Role reversal is OK.  Many men are doing the grocery shopping and the number of stay-at-home dads doubled in the past decade.

At Campbell, we are embracing the change in the American household and reshaping our portfolio to meet their changing tastes and needs, whether it is fresh carrots and organic baby food, or soups and dinner sauces with on-trend ingredients.


The infographic below displays just how rapidly the American household is changing (Download larger version here):



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