Industry innovation can help target products to the elderly

By David Anderson

- Last updated on GMT

iStock/ wgmbh
iStock/ wgmbh

Related tags Nutrition

The industry can do more to target fashionable high protein foods and drinks to the over 65s market, while rest of Europe should follow Norway with nutrition-filled NPD for the elderly, say researchers.

The authors of an Irish-government funded paper scrutinising nutritional deficiencies in older adults have called on food and drink manufacturers and nutrition industry players to target ‘in vogue’ high protein foods specifically at the older generation, and for the rest of Europe to learn from Norway by launching nutrition-crammed products for the seniors market. 

Speaking to NutraIngredients, Dr Sinéad McCarthy, a research officer at Teagasc, the Irish agricultural development agency, said: “There is perhaps an opportunity for food manufacturers to target the same product to a couple of different demographics.

“A lot of the high protein foods that have become very much in vogue recently, especially the dairy products that are high in protein with added vitamins and minerals, they don’t have to be just for the active sports type person.”

McCarthy said manufacturers should look to target them specifically for people aged over 65.

Norway taking a lead

Co-author Sephora Baugreet, told us that Norway was acting as a blueprint for the rest of Europe, by launching specific milk and yoghurt products targeting the older demographic, which was at odds with the US and other parts of Europe “where there is not that much.”

The paper offers an overview of the factors which contribute to reduced food intake in the over 65s, leading to nutritional deficiencies and various health conditions and diseases, such as osteoporosis.

The authors highlight the need to target new food product development (NPD) with functional health benefits to address food-related needs of older people.

It says a range of factors should be considered when developing new products, such as increased requirements of macro and micronutrients, particularly protein, calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B, as well as chewing difficulties and poor swallowing ability.

The authors advise that foods targeting the elderly should be energy dense, nutritionally adequate and palatable, to compensate for diminished appetite in the elderly.

Packaging, the authors asserted, is crucial in enabling food to be accessible to the over 65s, as is communicating the virtues of the food.

Don’t make older consumers feel old

“One aspect that manufactures need to consider when targeting older consumers is not to make them old. There is a sensitive way around communicating to older consumers. They don’t want to be pictured as frail old ladies,”​ McCarthy told us.

In the UK, more than 6,000 packaging injures are reported each year by the NHS, with a high prevalence amongst older adults.

To combat this, innovations like “easy-to-tear” food wrappers, and self-venting and easy-peel packaging have been introduced.

Baugreet said Teagasc was working on developing products for the older population, adding plant protein to increase protein content to help combat diseased such as osteoporosis.

Teagasc has already published a paper highlighting beef pates enriched with plant protein and more prototype foods targeting older people will be forthcoming.

More research into improved combinations of flavours

The paper calls for: “More research into developing improved combinations of flavours in widely consumed nutrient dense products such as meat, cereal, and dairy remains to be investigated further.

Another approach could include incorporating natural ingredients rich in umami taste or intense flavour ingredients.”

This could include tomatoes, sharp-aged cheese, shiitake mushrooms, soy and garlic, onion, concentrated fruit sauce or flavoured oils/vinegars, or spices with bolder aromas, that is, basil, chives, coriander, and sage rosemary, the paper said.

In conclusion, the paper said: “By considering nutritional gaps and challenges, potential high-quality food products can be tailored specifically to enhance nutritional status and health of older adults.

“This can be achieved by fortifying foods with selected functional ingredients, vitamins and minerals which may offer additional potential to enhance the nutritive value of individual portions of food.

“By also providing products with beneficial attributes such as ready-to-eat, easy-to-open, and easy-to-bite and chew will help fulfil this cohort's nutritional and functional needs.”

Source: Journal of Food Science
Volume 82, Issue 4, Pages 848–855, doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.13674
“Mitigating Nutrition and Health Deficiencies in Older Adults: A Role for Food Innovation?”
Authors: Sephora Baugreet, et al

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