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Don’t forget mental health when targeting seniors, says Leatherhead

By Kacey Culliney , 06-Nov-2012
Last updated on 06-Nov-2012 at 09:50 GMT

Target seniors with functional foods for mental health, says Leatherhead analyst
Target seniors with functional foods for mental health, says Leatherhead analyst

Fortified breads, snacks and cereals targeting mental health in older consumers is an avenue of opportunity for manufacturers, a Leatherhead analyst says.

By 2050 there will be around two billion people aged 60 and over across the globe, according to a new Leatherhead report.

An Ageing Population – Trends & Opportunities for the Food Industry said that by 2050, just under one-quarter (22%) of the global population will be 60 or over, up from 11% in 2000.

This, the report said, presents multiple opportunities for the food industry, particularly in terms of fortification.

Matthew Incles, market intelligence manager at Leatherhead Food Research, identified mental health and cognitive function as “more exciting potential areas of development” compared to a traditional focus on bone and heart health.

“Mental health, decline in cognitive function and specific conditions such as Alzheimer’s are reportedly on the rise and more prevalent in older consumers; however, to date, there has been relatively few products that actively make claims in this area,” Incles told BakeryandSnacks.com.

He identified breads, snacks and cereals as good product platforms to do this on as they are broader and are already well established in terms of fortification.

“Bakery, snack and cereal manufacturers stand in good stead for ageing population opportunities. In bread and breakfast cereals, ingredients such as omega-3, flax seed, linseed, chia seeds and poppy seeds are increasingly used to provide functional benefits, which presents a solid platform for growth,” he said.

Follow in Asia’s footsteps…

Fortified products specifically developed for mental health are typically found in countries across Asia like China, Japan and India, Incles said.

Products include functional ingredients such as omega-3 fatty acids, glutamic acid, iodine, zinc and GABA (‪gamma-Aminobutyric acid).

“However, it is less known as to whether similar formulations would appeal to consumers in Europe and North America, and therefore a potential opportunity is presented,” he said.

Marketing focus on health, not age

Incles warned however that manufacturers should focus on promoting the health benefits of the fortified breads, snacks and cereals, rather than drawing attention to the target consumer group.

“Functional products generally appeal on the basis of health needs - real or perceived - rather than age,” he said.

“Using age to define consumers’ needs and wants can be crude. The premise that consumers aged 55 and 75 have similar needs and wants now seems outdated,” he said.

“Marketing of functional food and drink products to ageing consumers would be more effective if the focus is directed towards promoting health benefits rather than targeting consumers on the basis of their age,” he added.

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