Positive ageing is driving demand for healthier nutrition

By Kevin Robinson 29-Nov-2021

Ageing consumers are adopting a long-term approach to well-being and nutrition, a fact that food and drink manufacturers can use to their advantage when looking at new product development

New research, conducted on behalf of BENEO, reveals that consumers are now even more focused on “positive ageing”. The research, done by HealthFocus International, includes an exclusive analysis of the health-conscious 50+ age range.1 It shows that those aged older than 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.

Getting the best out of the present and the future is what drives health-conscious over-50s. They want to be the best version of themselves that they can be in every life-stage. This means taking control of their future health while being fit and healthy enough to enjoy the present … and nutrition plays a significant part in achieving this for them.

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 them to cope better with life’s challenges. Three quarters (74%) are making a conscious effort to eat a healthy diet, whereas 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 10–20% of these health-conscious over-50s are personally affected by digestive health, bone health or blood glucose issues, half of those surveyed are “very or extremely concerned” about such matters.

Anke Sentko

Anke Sentko

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.

Talking about the research to Dr Kevin Robinson, Anke Sentko, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs & Nutrition Communication at BENEO, commented: “The population triangle is inverting and, now, the over-50s make up a significantly larger proportion of global consumers. And, more often, they’re adopting a long-term approach to health maintenance, wanting to stay fit, active and independent until as late in life as possible.”

“Nutrition plays a key role in this,” she adds: “According to our survey, 67% of European consumers aged 65-75 are actively taking steps to making their nutrition healthier. For example, managing a person’s blood glucose levels through nutrition is a key way to help promote long-term health. This not only supports metabolic well-being, but also benefits fat oxidation for energy production and inhibits the storage of fat, which may support weight management.”

For producers looking to make the most of the increasing consumer desire to manage their blood glucose, bone health and digestive health, BENEO’s products offer solutions that are backed by sound science. “Choosing the right carbohydrate is so important,” advises Anke: “BENEO’s Palatinose (isomaltulose) is a slow-release sugar that occurs naturally in honey and is derived from sugar that’s 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.”

“People are also looking for recognisable ingredients, as well as newness and freshness; they see sugar reduction and adding fibre as something that is important for their health. Given that the potential to develop 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, this is incredibly important.”

Winds of change

I ask Anke whether there has been a generational shift in attitude towards nutritional health, perhaps as a result of public awareness or better education. “We’re definitely seeing a change in mindset,” she agrees, “and it seems to be moving from East to West.” According to Mintel, Asia has been senior aware for decades, with new product launches for this sector accounting for 67%. In Europe, by contrast, just 17% of recent new product launches target the ageing population.”2

She adds: “As we age, issues such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, weight management and gut health all come to the fore. Your doctor might tell you to do something about your bone density, so you need to source vitamin D and calcium, for example. Manufacturers can help them achieve these goals by developing products that tap into these specific health benefits through the use of BENEO’s functional ingredients, including the slow-release sugar, Palatinose and prebiotic chicory root fibres oligofructose and inulin, that can easily fit into their daily routines without compromising on taste.”

When it comes to digestive health, gut friendly foods — such as prebiotics — can help with nourishing the microbiota as a person gets older. 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.

In fact, according to the International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics, inulin and oligofructose are among the very few proven prebiotics and, additionally, are the only plant-based ones. Orafti Inulin and oligofructose have been shown to support a healthy microbiota and the selective increase in Bifidobacteria in more than 50 human intervention studies and an increase in stool frequency in 20 human intervention studies.

Beyond the Ingredient

Despite the much-reported side-effects of lockdowns, including an increased consumption of junk food and alcohol, Anke believes that even small steps in the right direction can make a big difference. “For healthy foods and ingredients to work, they need to taste good. People need to feel that they’re not sacrificing the eating experience to stay well."

"But, at the same time, more and more healthy agers are experimenting with vegan or vegetarian alternatives and, slowly, what starts out as a will I/won't I decision becomes a habit. It takes time, but the industry can help with convincing claims and supporting science. If a consumer reads on a cookie that it won’t spike their blood sugar levels, they might be more inclined to try it.”

“Two-thirds of consumers aged 55–64 are willing to try new products and ingredients when there is an attached health benefit. This shows the potential for low glycaemic new product development that comes with the right on-pack messaging. As well,” continues Anke, “there is a certain amount of responsibility that comes with age. We think more about sustainable sourcing, how what we eat affects the planet and the next generation. Nutrition, health and the environment are becoming intrinsically entwined, which can only be a good thing.”

Looking ahead

Today’s over-50s want to be their best self. They want to be independent for longer and live their lives to the fullest. Being well aware that food choices have an effect on overall health, they are looking for food and drink products that offer additional health support, such as lowering blood glucose levels or improving digestive health.

“I believe the microbiome and the gut-brain axis will continue to play a pivotal role in healthy ageing,” notes Anke. “We’re learning more and more about how certain microbial populations influence conditions such as dementia, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. The loss of diversity in the gut microbiota is something that needs further investigation as it affects the immune system and, via the gut-brain axis, could play a role in the whole-body health.”

“We’re also more aware of the fact that not every fibre can do everything we previously thought it could. This again is tied in with ongoing microbiome research. So, I think we’ll soon discover more about gut health and, of course, blood sugar management will continue to be enormously important."

"At the moment, there’s still a lack of consumer awareness; but, with more research, product development and effective communication, that will change. We’ve seen a real shift during the past 10 years and, now, healthy ageing and quality of life are top of mind for many people. And although some of these new eating patterns and nutritional adjustments happened because of COVID-19, we expect many of them to be long-lasting.”

References

  1. HealthFocus International, Global Trends Study, Q1 2020, 22 countries, 12336 interviews (min 500/country). Consumer group: 50+ (HFI made an exclusive analysis for BENEO, based on the study). The identified group of consumers aged 50+ had no children living at home, and showed a specific concern about healthy ageing (=50+ No Kids Healthy Ageing segment).
  2. Mintel GNPD (www.mintel.com/global-new-products-database), Jan 2020-June 2021.

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