Boomers recession proofing functional foods, report

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

Health conscious boomers, in particular mature Italians, are embracing functional foods such as cholesterol lowering dairy products and digestive health brands to retain their youthful health, according to an industry expert’s latest report.

Global health and nutrition business specialist, Julian Mellentin, in his publication 10 Key Trends in Food, Nutrition and Health 2010​, claims that mature consumers in both Europe and the US are fuelling the growth in food and drinks that aim to maintain or enhance health.

Of Europe’s 500 million people 20 per cent are over the age of 65 and the average age of the population is 41. By 2030, 30 per cent will be over the age of 65. “With figures like these in prospect, the market faces a new era of growth,”​ notes Mellentin.

He told that the boomers are a group whose numbers are growing rapidly and a consumer segment that will have as big an effect on healthcare and the food industry over the next ten years as they did on education and cultural values when they were coming of age in the 1960s.

The author claims that as many consumers over-50, and in particular over 65, have little or no debt, have often accumulated significant assets and have more disposable income to spend on their health than any previous generation it is not surprising that they are now driving the growth of brands that address their main health concerns.

“It’s a seismic shift. Brands that focus on 40+ consumers in general are doing well and have seen big sales growth even during the recession,”​ continued Mellentin.

The author said, in his report, he compared the success of certain functional brands in countries such as Italy, the UK and the US due to the fact that they are “fairly disparate cultures”.

Mellentin highlights the impressive growth in sales of 19.5 per cent to €222.5m ($325m) for Danone’s premium-priced Activia digestive health brand in Italy, and the company’s cholesterol-lowering brand, Danacol earned €72.7 million ($106 million) in retail sales in that country in 2009, which represented an increase of 28.8 per cent (IRI data).

And he argues that for brands to achieve this growth while the Italian economy contracted by 6 per cent is quite an achievement. “Pro rata Danacol’s performance to a market the size of the US and it would be a $500m brand,”​ he adds.

The UK market, reports the author, also saw Activia achieve high growth with a 32 per cent hike in sales of the brand there, which translates as €270m ($314m), and this increase was recorded, continued Mellentin, in a static yoghurt market and a recession hit economy, which shrank by 5.2 per cent.

Benecol also performed well in the UK arena, despite the cholesterol lowering brand being the most expensive dairy product in the UK retail sector, continues the report. It cites sales of €44.6m (£39.2m or $61m) for the premium dairy drink.

Meanwhile in the US, the market for both digestive and joint health seems to be buoyant according to figures in the trends publication, which show that Yakult achieved a sales boost of 44 per cent there, General Mills’ Fibre One breakfast cereal brand recorded a growth rate of 20 per cent to reach $225m (€150m) and Elations juice drinks with added glucosamine are forecast to achieve sales of $85m (€57m) in 2010.

In 2008, notes the report, Elations’ sales were just $15m (€10m).

And Mellentin said that science-based brands that address the needs of the most health-conscious in these age-groups will thrive.

He notes the EU approvals for Benecol’s cholesterol lowering claim and Sirco juice’s healthy blood flow and circulation benefits claims have earned them a loyal following and a high repeat purchase pattern.

Researchers from the UK based Leatherhead Food Research, in a report released last November, concur with Mellentin’s findings. The UK analysts, in The Market for Anti-Ageing Foods, ​argue that adapting to new legislation changes will be vital for companies wishing to launch products in the anti-ageing sector.

Mellentin's 10 key trends for 2010 are:

  1. Digestive health – a mega-trend moves beyond the tipping point
  2. An intrinsic health benefit that’s also convenient
  3. Feel the benefit – the most powerful marketing message
  4. Energy – a world of untapped opportunities
  5. Fruit and superfruit – the future of food and health
  6. Antioxidants – big in America, dead in Europe?
  7. Weight management
  8. Healthy snacking
  9. Packaging and premiumisation
  10. Bones and movement

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