‘Their numbers are growing but they are unserved by NPD‘: Beneo spots ‘huge potential‘ in the over 55s

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Image: Getty/pixelfit
Image: Getty/pixelfit

Related tags Old age Older consumers Beneo

Older consumers are a growing cohort -- though a pitiful number of new products specifically target them, it’s claimed. Supplier Beneo therefore sees ‘huge potential‘ for its functional ingredients aimed at this group.

Consumers are now even more focused on ‘positive’ ageing, reveals research conducted on behalf of Beneo. Carried out by HealthFocus International, the data show that those aged over 50 want to be able to continue with the activities that they enjoy in their latter years and are increasingly looking to food and drink alternatives to support this goal.

“Being independent for as long as possible is the number one concern of the over 55s today,”​ Beneo Vice President of Regulatory Affairs & Nutrition Communication Anke Sentko told FoodNavigator. “If you compare that with 10 years ago the top concern was cancer.”

She added: “Today, the over 55s want to be as healthy for as long as people. They want to be in the driving seat and in control of their positive ageing. They are taking more pro-active steps to age healthily and that's influencing their health choices. They are looking for healthier ingredients and for recognisable ingredients that are good for them.“

The research findings, which were unveiled at Fi Europe, further revealed that for those over-50s concerned about the issue of healthy ageing, three out of every four (79%) are primarily focused on maintaining their ability to continue with activities as they age. A similar number (76%) see good physical and mental health and a balanced diet as key to overall health. In particular, the importance of nutrition is reflected by the survey results: 42% think a healthy diet helps people cope better with life's challenges. Three quarters (74%) are making a conscious effort to eat a healthy diet, while more than half (56%) choose food and drink products that provide protective or preventive health benefits. The research findings also show that offering “better nutrition” is one of the top influencing factors to consumers trying a new brand (68%), presenting food and drink manufacturers with a great opportunity to drive purchases by improving the nutrition of their products.

With regard to health benefits, the science is widely recognised by this cohort when it comes to food: 60% agree that they “accept scientific and technical improvements to foods and beverages if they provide the required benefits​”. Interestingly, although only between 10-20% of these health-conscious over-50’s are personally affected by digestive health, bone health or blood glucose issues, half of those surveyed are ‘very or extremely concerned’ about such matters. These consumers are actively looking for food and beverage products that support their aim of staying healthy for longer, with more than half choosing products that promote stronger bones, improve digestion or manage blood sugar levels.

Just 0.0005% of new product launches aimed at older consumers

Research from Mintel further reveals that new product launches aimed at older consumers are at very low levels. Just 0.0005% of new product launches globally (made up of food, beverages, health & hygiene, including supplements and meal replacements) in the Jan 2020-Jun 2021 period directly target the over 55s, it discovered. Most of those (67%) are in Asia. Europe accounts for 17% of these (most commonly used formats include healthcare supplements and nutritional drinks).

Older consumers are also a growing cohort. For the first time in history, across the globe people aged over 65 now outnumber children under five, according to the UN. By the middle of this century there will be more than twice as many. In Europe, the population of over 65s is expected to reach almost 150 million by 2050.

Beneo therefore sees huge potential for its functional ingredienst such as the slow-release sugar, Palatinose, and prebiotic chicory root fibres oligofructose and inulin, which the company says end consumers can easily fit into their daily routines without compromising on taste.

“There's huge market potential especially as there are more older people than younger ones,“​ said Sentko. “The market is growing and we see a lot of potentila to target the speific needs of seniors with funcional ingredients."

The World Health Organisation has announced that this is the decade of healthy ageing, she added. “Already, there are more than 1 billion people aged 60 years or older and by 2050, more than 1 in 5 people will be 60 years or older.“

Importantly, many older consumer are now prepared to pay a premium for functional health through diet, she added.

Beneo stresses its products offer solutions that are backed by sound science to make the most of the increasing consumer desire to manage their blood glucose, bone health and digestive health.

A person’s blood glucose levels are a key way to help promote long-term health, and this is why choosing the right carbohydrate is so important, said Sentko. “Our isomaltulose is a slow-release sugar which occurs naturally in honey and is derived from sugar that is naturally extracted from sugar beets. It is unique in its ability to deliver a lower rise in blood glucose, whilst providing full carbohydrate energy. It supplies the body with 4 kcal/g and contributes to daily energy intake from carbohydrates, thus making it an ideal ingredient to help support blood sugar management.“

Slow release sugar is an ‘ideal carbohydrate‘ she explained, for maturer consumers as it provides the necessary energy for a person’s metabolism and triggers a low, balanced rise in blood glucose and a low increase in insulin, as well as encouraging fat burning.

At Fi Europe, the company unveiled a ‘low GI' cookie made with its alternative sugar Palatinose which it claims releases glucose more slowly and therefore supports blood glucose management.

When it comes to digestive health, gut friendly foods – such as prebiotics – are also crucial help with nourishing the microbiota as a person gets older, she added.

Beneo‘s prebiotic chicory root fibres oligofructose and inulin play an important role in selectively promoting the growth of good bacteria and this in turn supports a person’s inner defence system, she said. “Managing a person’s blood glucose levels through nutrition is a key way to help promote long-term health. This not only supports metabolic health but benefits fat oxidation for energy production and inhibits the storage of fat, which may support weight management. The potential of developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes and being overweight or obese increases with age, as the body’s ability to correct dietary mistakes decreases.“

Choosing the right on-pack messaging is also key, according to the ingredients company.  Its research shows the phrasing ‘lower and more gentle impact on blood sugar levels’ was the preferred by 55% of European 65- to 74-year-olds. Also, two-thirds of consumers aged between 55 and 64 are willing to try new products and ingredients when there is an attached health benefitii. “This shows the potential for low glycaemic new product development that comes with the right on-pack messaging,“​ said Sentko

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