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The "senior" demographic is a label often assigned to people of retirement age who may be slowing down or suffering from health problems. Due to the modern reality of longer lifespans, however, this group actually represents a very broad spectrum of the population. As lifespans reach 100 years and older, the perception of "seniors" as one cohesive group of consumers has become outdated.
Today, many people work and live longer while being wealthier, healthier, better-informed and more active than previous generations. This carries with it significant opportunities for food and drink companies to find new ways to target older consumers.
As the senior population continues to grow, it is crucial for brands to recognise the full potential of marketing to older adults and tailor campaigns accordingly. Challenging stereotypes of this age group is key, as is reflecting how products and services can be relevant to them specifically.
Food and drink products targeting seniors still limited in Europe
Despite a rise in the world's ageing population, "senior" claims in food and drink have so far seen limited use. From 2014 – 18, less than 1% of global food and drink launches targeted seniors (aged 55+) overtly with on-pack claims, according to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD). Japan and China dominate global food and drink launches that target seniors, reflecting a less stigmatised attitude toward ageing: Japan accounted for a third of launches with senior claims from 2014 – 18, followed by China with 30%. While Europe has seen a slight increase in products with senior claims from 2016 – 18, the few launches do not reflect the region's large share of older consumers. Formulations will need to increase as the United Nations predicts seniors will make up almost 35% of Europe's population by 2050.
Bakoma Senior Active Peach Flavored Drinking Yogurt (Poland): Leading Polish dairy company rolled out a senior-friendly yogurt range in March 2018. The yogurt and yogurt drinks are lactose-free and enriched with calcium and vitamin D.
Seamild Blood Maintenance Nutritious Oatmeal for Middle-Aged and Seniors (China): Functional cereals can target busy, health-conscious seniors. This hot cereal contains Australian oats, pumpkin, bitter buckwheat, spirulina, fiber and vitamin C.
Proactive approaches to health can come in many forms
Besides senior-specific claims, Mintel's 2019 Global Food & Drink Trend ‘Through the Ages’ predicts that general ‘healthy ageing’ will be the next extension for products that offer more holistic, proactive and ongoing wellness solutions.
For older demographics, this means products will not necessarily have to carry the sometimes-stigmatised "seniors only" positioning; meanwhile, brands will be able to rely on many of the same claims that appeal to younger consumers - thus resonating across all age groups. Areas to focus on include gut, bone and joint health, as well as ingredients that could improve cognitive health. Food and drink can serve as sources of essential nutrients for prevention and positive ageing, such as prebiotics for gut health, MCTs for brain function, lutein for eye health and collagen peptide for joints.
Brands could also take inspiration from scientifically proven healthy eating patterns for a new wave of positive ageing claims. For example, the Mediterranean diet has shown potential to link with brain health claims in food, drink and supplements.
Asda Mackerel Fillets (UK): This skinless and boneless product is high in omega-3, which helps maintain normal function of the heart. Despite the correlation between nutrients in fish and heart health, less than 2% of products launched globally make related claims.
Adrien Gagnon Royal Jelly & Ginseng Ampoules (Canada): This supplement contains 2,000mg of maca and 200mg of ginseng to support cognitive function and reduce mental fatigue. Keeping brains healthy reduces a person's risk of cognitive decline with age.
Trimona Plain Bulgarian Yogurt (US): This product states that it is "a staple for health and longevity in Bulgaria for years" on the back of the pack, describing how it prevents ageing, rather than reacting to it.
Longer careers require energy and brain health
Longer lifespans are driving consumers to work full- or part-time beyond traditional retirement age. Turning 65 years old no longer means trading in the office keys for a set of golf clubs. Increasingly, seniors are opting to delay retirement and stay in the workforce because they want to, because they have to, or a bit of both. As adults work longer, products that provide energy, brain health and, in the era of computers and smartphones, eye health, will be needed.
Eye health is impacted by lifestyle, including eating habits. Good eye health can therefore be supported by consumption of food and drink with nutrients such as vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids.
Meiji's Gold Advance Malt Flavored Milk (Thailand): The dairy drink contains ingredients to help with bone health, nervous system health, brain health and memory as well as vitamin A to help with eyesight.
Jenny Zegler, Associate Director - Mintel Food & Drink
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