Understanding The Drive Of Healthy Aging Nutrition

Thursday, April 7th, 2022

As the elderly population around the world continues to increase, it becomes more important than ever for businesses to understand what drives their consumption behaviours and what makes them tick.

Contributed by Jackie Ng, Strategic Marketing Director, Kerry APMEA, Applied Health & Nutrition.

Enjoying good health and quality of life is something we all strive for, and this becomes more important as we get older. 

More than ever, today’s older consumers are proactive about their health and well-being — they are staying active, making healthier food choices and reducing salt, sugar and fat in their diets, and getting enough quality sleep. 

Older consumers define healthy aging less in terms of youthful appearance or long life and more about embracing the natural aging process while being free of illness, with 64 percent saying keeping an active mind and 58 percent identifying staying physically active as the most important aspects of healthy aging.

While six in 10 of Generation X and Baby Boomers say their current age is the time to start taking steps to maintain good health, interestingly, almost half of older Generation Z consumers report taking steps to age healthily from age 20.

The Senior Consumer

In Asia Pacific, one in in four people will be 60 years or older by 2050. Faced with a fast aging population, the number of older adults is expected to more than double, from 535 million in 2015 to about 1.3 billion by 2050.

In Southeast Asia, the proportion of people aged 60 or above in 2017 was 9.8 percent — this figure is projected to grow to 13.7 percent and 20.3 percent by 2030 and by 2050, respectively. 

Globally, among age-related health concerns, immune, digestive, muscle, cognitive and bone and joint health, cardio metabolic and weight management rank high. 

What this means is that unlike infant nutrition or performance nutrition where categories are defined around common needs, ‘Healthy Aging’ nutrition is a broad and wide market, not a singular category, and healthy aging products should address need states rather than age. 

Yet when it comes to food and beverage innovation, only one percent of global innovation and 10 percent of marketing spend target adults over 50, despite the fact that it is the fastest-growing consumer demographic.

Immune, Gut & Muscle Health Key to Healthy Aging

With age, consumers’ priorities shift from improving health to maintaining health; they want food, beverage and supplements that keep them physically and mentally well. Interest in immune health has increased, with the ongoing pandemic driving this focus, particularly among older consumers who already stand a higher risk of disease and infections. 

But while our immune health slows and weakens with age, our desire to enjoy a healthy, active life does not. 

More than one quarter of respondents aged 56 and older named immunity, gut health, heart and bone health, improved sleep and aging well support as benefits they want to see in food and beverages.

In Asia, immune (35 percent) and digestive health (31 percent) were top aging-related claims among global food and beverage launches with aging related claims in the first six months of 2020 and 2021.

Soft drinks, dairy and hot drinks make up half of food and beverage launches with immune health and aging-related claims. Interest in immune health may also be propelling growth in a broader range of products, including confectionery, which saw a projected 36.3 percent CAGR from 2018-2020, and spreads at a 25.2 percent CAGR over the same period. 

Kerry research shows that among consumers in Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, more than 70 percent are users of or considering using healthy lifestyle products with immune health benefits. 

When it comes to digestive health, more than 60 percent of Asian consumers have either used or considered purchasing products that provide digestive health benefits, with nearly a third seeking digestive health benefits in dairy beverages, fruit and vegetable juices and hot beverages.

In the wider APMEA region, the functional beverage market is the largest globally, valued at US$42.8 billion.

Equally as strong are probiotic-fortified foods in the region, which topped US$47bn in 2020, with 50 percent of consumers having consumed a probiotic in food in the past six months and want their probiotic fix on the go, in snacks, bars, baked goods, frozen foods and desserts, and confectionery.

Part of the reason for this is the growing body of scientific research on the benefits of probiotics, including a wealth of studies carried out on kids. For example, research with BC30™, Kerry’s spore-forming probiotic, found that the probiotic ingredient can support digestive health as well as protein absorption. 

Along with immune and digestive health, muscle health is also a critical factor in healthy aging. As we get older, we lose muscle mass, which leads to reduced strength and mobility and sarcopenia or skeletal muscle disorder. With muscle loss, our body’s ability to absorb protein is also affected, which means we need more protein as we get older. Maintaining muscle is the difference between a healthy, active, independent retirement, and physical dependence. 

A new Kerry report found that in Asia, 40 percent of consumers associate protein consumption with healthy ageing, bone/joint health, immunity and skin/beauty benefits. Some 84 percent of consumers in APAC are willing to pay a higher premium for protein products, with quality of protein being the top purchase motivator for 60 percent of consumers.

Breakfast foods and indulgent snacks, including granola and cereal bars, yogurt and breakfast cereals top the list of preferred protein foods, while drinkable yogurt, dairy-based milk and nutritional beverages are the protein-preferred beverages in the region.

Winning In An Expanded Market

The core of ‘Healthy Aging’ is prevention, not cure. Consumers are beginning to view healthy aging as a lifelong exercise – the earlier one starts, the better. 

There is huge opportunity to deliver healthy food and beverages that are nutritious, convenient and deliver on the benefits older consumers want and can understand. 

New products can highlight nutrients and ingredients that support physical and mental function, including protein, calcium and newer functional ingredients, rather than focus on therapeutic or medical benefits.

Fortified beverages may attract older adults who recognise the importance of hydration. “Clear” whey ingredients, for example, can be used as protein sources for beverages such as tea and coffee. 

Water and sparkling beverages with easily incorporated functional ingredients can allow older consumers to personalise their selection to meet a specific health need. 

When it comes to immunity and gut health, to stand out from the crowd and build consumer trust, research is everything. Consumers want clarity when evaluating immune health ingredients.

Formulating with science-backed yeast beta glucans, like Wellmune®, Kerry’s proprietary yeast beta glucan, can help manufacturers create functional foods with clinically demonstrated immune health benefits consumers seek. 

For instance, Kerry’s scientifically-backed Wellmune®, in addition to a team of formulation experts, helped a major snack company in the Asia Pacific region create a protein powdered beverage that provides immune health benefits, with region-specific flavours like Thai Tea and Cappuccino Coffee. 

Consumers want more information about the nutritional value of products, and many now make purchase decisions primarily by looking for ingredients they recognise, or that are supported by scientific data. For example, in APMEA, 43 percent of consumers say they are influenced to purchase healthy lifestyle products by doing their own research while 39 percent say they are influenced if they see research or scientific studies.

Within this, the pandemic has increased the burden of responsibility on manufacturers from both an innovation side — creating products that fit consumer’s wellness routines — and a benefit side, which is where science-backed functional ingredients come into play.

As demand for functional products increases, product manufacturers need to earn the trust of consumers by communicating transparently about product benefits and using proven ingredients supported by high-quality research. Creating products with branded, science-backed immune ingredients or probiotics can further enhance a product’s offering to better help seniors support their health. 


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