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Lucrative seniors market ripe for new food products

By Gary Scattergood in Frankfurt, 15-Nov-2012

Food firms are failing to exploit the lucrative ‘seniors’ market and are instead focusing on new products launches for the cash-strapped under 35s.

David Jago, director of innovation and insight at research firm Mintel, said seniors were “rapidly emerging as the most significant demographic” for the industry, but their product and packaging needs were not being met by new launches.

Speaking at a seminar at Health Ingredients Europe (HiE) in Frankfurt, he said there were twice as many 55–74 year olds in Europe compared with 15–24 year olds.

However, just 0.1% of new product launches were targeted specifically at seniors only, he said. Most of those were in Asia where ready meals in small portions and with smooth textures were incredibly popular.

“We can't emphasise enough how important this market is and how under targeted it remains,” he said.

More opportunities with seniors

“When we speak to food and drink companies, we find that the majority of marketers focus on 15–34 year olds, but there are far more opportunities with seniors.”

However, he said it was important to understand the market and not fall into the trap of thinking that “older people were ‘old’”.

“The baby boomers have become seniors and they have changing requirements. They are more active, indulgent and tech savvy and this provides great opportunities,” he said.

One such opportunity is harnessing their spending power, with research showing 50 to 64 year olds in the UK spend 50% more on food and drink than the under 30s.

Jago also argued that food firms should find it relatively easy to tap into the market because seniors repeatedly highlighted the same three benefits they wanted from food – weight loss, healthier hearts and reduced cholesterol.

Proactive approach to health

“They have a proactive approach to health and know what they want, but they are not getting it,” he added.

He went on to tell the seminar that product launches must not patronise the consumer but advised that packaging should be easy to use. He suggested the ergonomics used in packaging for toddlers could be developed for goods targeted at seniors. 

“Ease of use is absolutely essential,” he said, before questioning why Actimel's 50+ drinks had hard-to-remove foil under the lids.

From a marketing perspective, food companies should promote the positive “energy, vitality and flexibility” benefits a product could provide instead of mentioning particular health ailments, said Jago.

He added that the UN is forecasting there will be 144M more seniors globally by 2015 than there are today. That means now was the time for the food industry to act. “Take action now before seniors close their minds to your products,” he said. “The demand is there and it will only grow.”

Meanwhile, earlier this year the whey protein firm Carbery said senior consumers offered massive market potential for ingredients suppliers and food processors but few firms were exploiting the opportunity. 


Nutrition for seniors – at a glance