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More men taking grocery cart for a spin, stores taking notice

CHICAGO — Danny Meyer, 35, began doing most of the household grocery shopping when his fiancee began graduate school.

Meyer goes to Whole Foods for produce and specialty items, Jewel-Osco for staples and Trader Joe's when he needs to really stock up. He says he is not particularly brand-loyal and is susceptible to impulse buys. "I walk in and go with the flow of the store, going aisle by aisle," he said. "I like to walk through all the aisles even if I don't think I need anything there, because sometimes something will catch my eye."

Meyer is part of a growing contingent of men taking over grocery duty. Experts say the trend has been building slowly for decades. But the recession hit men disproportionately with layoffs and left many of them home to manage the household.

The nation's biggest food and personal-products manufacturers are taking notice, attempting to market products and adjust store layouts to cater to men. It's a paradigm shift for the $560 billion retail food industry that has patently referred to the primary customer as "she," focusing marketing and advertising firepower on women, and mothers in particular.

The female focus isn't lost on Meyer, who works as a brand manager for Bimbo Bakeries USA. "It does kind of bother me that the focus seems to be toward moms and women in general," he said.

Men ages 18 to 50, including Generation X and millennials, seem more than happy to do the shopping — or at least tag along. "I don't live with a girlfriend or anything," said Judson Eakin, a 25-year-old concert promoter. "But even if I did, I wouldn't just send her" to grocery shop.

According to consumer-research firm GfK MRI and an ESPN report, 31 percent of men nationwide were the primary household grocery shoppers in 2011, up from 14 percent in 1985.

Some estimates are higher. A nationwide survey of 1,000 fathers conducted by Yahoo and market research firm DB5 released early this year said 51 percent were the primary grocery shoppers in their household.