Europeans are among the most apathetic people in the world about their health as they age – creating big challenges for manufacturers of healthy foods targeting this growing demographic, suggests new research from Fonterra.
The ageing of Europe’s population is an ongoing trend that started several decades ago, with falling birth rates and higher life expectancies. The European Commission predicts that the share of those aged 65 and over will nearly double, from 17% in 2010 to 30% of the population by 2060. Meanwhile, the food industry has responded with foods and beverages targeted toward a population looking to improve or hold onto health for as long as possible.
However, Fonterra’s research revealed that one in four ageing Europeans chooses to ignore their own health issues, and very few are actively seeking ways to stay healthy through diet or exercise.
The New Zealand dairy cooperative interviewed more than 3,700 adults aged 50-75 from China, Australia, Japan, the United States, Germany and France – including 613 in Germany and 599 in France.
Dr Lesley Stevenson, Fonterra’s nutrition science manager, said that major challenges for brands included connecting with ageing consumers in ways that they could actually feel, and investing in educating target consumers about the benefits of specific nutrients or dietary choices.
“Through our consumer market and insights work, we know that this is an audience that has very strong opinions and preferences. They respond to unique drivers, so these have to be fully understood in order to achieve success,” she said.
For Fonterra, the research is intended to inform its work with food manufacturers looking to target ageing consumers, as well as the development of dairy protein ingredients specifically targeted to the segment.
“Our research shows that French and German consumers are less likely to actively look for higher protein products, so high protein claims are not enough to persuade agers to purchase,” said Stevenson.
She added: “These consumers have a lower appetite for seeking out information compared to other global markets. To succeed, brands have to help agers to connect diet and exercise with health outcomes they can feel such as mobility, muscle strength and the ability to stay active.”
The researchers found that just 8% of French respondents were highly driven to make diet and lifestyle changes for health benefits, compared to 11% in Germany, and 16% in the United States and Australia.
“However, France has more ‘health seekers’ than most other markets,” said Stevenson. “They are early followers, willing to make some sacrifices for health benefits, as long as it leaves room for taste and occasional treats. This means that with the right proposition health seekers could be a very lucrative opportunity.”