The ageing population remains under-served in terms of functional food and drink products, says Euromonitor's Diana Cowland, despite 'elderlies' living longer and healthier than ever before.
Even in tough economic conditions, today's elderly will continue to spend on products that reduce the signs of ageing, addressing such concerns as heart, bone and brain health and increase healthy life expectancy.
This differs somewhat from total life expectancy. In fact, across all regions covered by Euromonitor International, there is at least a 7-year difference between total life expectancy and healthy life expectancy at birth. In regions such as the Asia Pacific and Latin America, this difference is closer to 10 years. Hence, manufacturers looking to target the ageing population should focus their efforts on closing this gap.
Yet it is well known that the ageing population remains under-served in terms of functional food and drink products. Globally, however, there have been some specific products launched to tap into the leading health trends for this demographic, such as cardiovascular health.
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Cardiovascular health focuses on omega-3 and soy protein
As consumers become more aware of preventing the onset of diseases related to cardiovascular health, the number of deaths linked to the circulatory system and diabetes, for example, has fallen in recent years. Nevertheless, there is still room for innovation – global sales reached US$8 billion in 2012 – with close to 30 different ingredients associated with this positioning, ranging from vitamin C and soy protein to omega-3.
Soy protein is set to benefit from the growing ageing population. The ingredient carries a claim pertaining to heart health in the US whereby a food must contain at least 6.25g of soy protein per reference amount. However similar claims have been rejected in the EU.
New product development has also enabled greater fortification of widely consumed products. For example, in 2013, German food retailer Edeka and researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV created a technique enabling sausage varieties to contain DHA and EPA.
Spend on functional products vital to success
However, for manufacturers to succeed, it is vital that they focus on populations with a high ageing index – the proportion aged over 65 in comparison to that aged 0-14 – and those consumers who spend on fortified/functional products. Over 2012-2017, the regions with the greatest potential to boost retail value include Western Europe, North America and Australasia.
Need for a greater variety of brain health-positioned products
In contrast to deaths from circulatory disorders and diabetes, deaths from mental disorders continue to rise, thus highlighting the need for products supporting brain health and memory. In 2012, global sales remained low at just US$527 million. In order to achieve growth, the focus should be on short-term tangible benefits, such as promoting improved memory and concentration, to remove scepticism. Once consumers gain trust in these products manufacturers can look to extend their range of products catering for long-term brain health and innovate in rapidly growing categories such as bakery and juice.
Bone health - innovate beyond calcium to achieve growth
However, it is bone health which stands out as the winner, with the vast majority of products focused on the benefits of calcium and more recently vitamin D. Yoplait’s Calin+ yoghurt, for example, was launched specifically for the ageing female population and provides 100% of the RDA of vitamin D, while also being rich in calcium.
There is, however, scope to develop bone and joint health further via the use of over 10 ingredients, including vitamins, minerals, protein and even collagen. Rousselot’s collagen peptide product Peptan, for example, is used in TIMEFINE, a product which is certified to use the ‘improved bone density’ health claim in China.
Bone health is, in fact, set to remain the leading ageing-related prime positioning over the forecast period.
The ultimate goal is a rise in healthy life expectancy
An increase in innovation has led to a greater variety of products targeting the ageing demographic. However, functional food and drink products can only truly be a success if, through strong efficacy and growing sales, they ultimately contribute to improving healthy life expectancy.