At the mid-point of my career in brand and marketing in the 80’s, there was a step-change in attitude relating to the value of targeting older consumers – in marketing speak, coined as ‘marketing to silver surfers’.
Historically, this demographic had been largely ignored by marketers as they were viewed as being cynical, demanding, critical and difficult to influence to an extent that would manifest in a change in purchasing behaviour. In short, not worth the marketing investment.
But then marketers realised that this cohort had higher relative wealth and greater spending power than the audiences which were the target of their main marketing spend.
And rather than continuing to view them as a secondary, peripheral audience, brands started to manifest with this audience at their core.
And today there are significant innovation opportunities in relation to healthy ageing, and the food and drink sector can unlock innovation opportunities by focusing on this growing importance.
Overall, Europe is ageing. By 2050 the population of over 65’s is expected to reach almost 150 million and as highlighted in my 2023 Trends Report, we now have more individuals over 60 than under 16 in the UK.
Driven by falling fertility rates and increasing life expectancy, many countries are ageing at a faster pace than in the past.
According to the World Health Organisation, by 2030 there are expected to be 44 ‘super-aged’ countries where more than 20% of the population is over 65, including Italy, Germany and the UK. And this is a large, growing, and relatively affluent demographic.
However, right now the number of new products launched that cater to ‘silver surfers’ and ‘baby boomers’ pales in comparison to those targeting trendy millennials or Generation Z.
But it is clear that the narrative on ageing needs to evolve. Living longer and healthier lives will impact people of all ages and there are many opportunities for the nutrition industry in particular to adapt their brand position and product portfolios and there are three key, food and drink sectors which can successfully target this important demographic.
1. Nutraceutical and supplements space
Post-pandemic, the increased demand from all consumers for better nutrition to enhance immunity is also leading to the development of numerous holistic, nutrition-focused foods and drinks.
Gains can be expected for products that cater to this older demographic by boosting immunity, bone, joint, muscle, cognitive, heart health, skin, eye and particularly digestive health.
And in particular, the importance of gut health is a rapidly emerging science and evidence is growing at a significant rate relating good gut health to overall physical and mental wellbeing, because as we age our ability to fully absorb nutrients does decrease so supplementation will not only remain important to this group, but it is likely to see further growth too.
Another example is vitamin D, B12 and calcium deficiencies which are often seen in older individuals and is associated with age-related osteoporosis.
Many consumer brands are already active in adult nutrition. Indeed, not only did Healthspan lead the way in targeting this demographic but they were also very early adopters of a direct-to-consumer model.
2. Grocery items pitched specifically at older consumers
Just like we currently see vegan or baby products in the supermarket today, I expect that we will see more products created to specifically target this important demographic.
And there is already some evidence of this happening with numerous brands exploring single-serve food products suited to the dietary needs of many in this segment and I expect to see this trend gain traction.
But it isn’t just about supermarket shelves, there is a continuing swell in ‘digitally savvy seniors’ who are showing a ‘growing appetite’ for e-commerce, accelerated of course by the pandemic.
Data from Barclays UK Spend Trends indicates that since 2016, the silver purse has been gradually moving more online.
And in 2020, 22.1% of the total amount over 65s spend on food and drink in the UK took place online.
This compared to 20.1% in 2019. Interestingly, online penetration in food and drink for the silver purse didn’t increase from 2016 to 2019 but COVID changed this behaviour and added momentum to the growth, pushing the percentage to 24.7% by 2022.
And it is this significant growth which in my view creates the potential for the third opportunity:
As the microbiome becomes better understood and food intolerance testing continues its rapid online growth, then the opportunity for businesses to start to offer fully personalised nutritional solutions delivered online becomes a reality.
The extraordinary analytical capability of AI is making such products more widely available and affordable and can enable brands to develop customised products of scale and mainstream affordability rather than niche and high price.
Let’s look at the specific areas where AI can be hugely valuable:
- Data Analysis and Personalisation
AI can analyse various data sources such as medical records, genetic information, dietary preferences, and lifestyle habits and this can then be used to create a comprehensive profile of each individual, identifying their specific nutritional needs and potential health risks.
- Nutritional Recommendation
Based on the gathered data, AI algorithms can generate tailored nutritional recommendations that align with the individual’s health goals, dietary restrictions, and medical conditions. These recommendations can include optimal calorie intake, macronutrient distribution, micronutrient requirements, and suggested food choices.
- Real-time Monitoring
AI-enabled devices and apps can continuously monitor an individual’s dietary intake, physical activity, and health metrics. This real-time monitoring helps adjust nutrition plans as needed and provides timely feedback to the user. For example, wearable devices can track steps taken, heart rate, and sleep patterns, which can all be factored into the personalised nutrition plan.
- Adaptation to Changes
As a person’s health status changes over time, AI can adapt the nutrition plan accordingly. If there are shifts in medical conditions, weight, activity levels, or other relevant factors, the AI system can recalculate and update the nutritional recommendations to ensure ongoing alignment with the individual’s needs.
- Behavioural Insights
AI can also analyse user behavior patterns and provide insights to help mature consumers make healthier food choices. This could involve nudges or reminders to consume certain foods, drink more water, or avoid particular ingredients.
- Recipe and Meal Planning
AI can assist in creating personalised recipes and meal plans that consider the individual’s preferences, dietary requirements and nutritional goals. It can suggest nutrient-rich foods and combinations that cater to specific health concerns such as bone health, heart health, and cognitive function.
- Supplement Guidance
For mature consumers who may need specific supplements, AI can provide recommendations for appropriate supplements based on their nutritional needs and health conditions. It can also monitor the impact of supplements on their health outcomes.
- Predictive Health Insights
By analysing data trends, AI may help predict potential health issues that mature consumers could face based on their personalised profiles. This proactive approach enables individuals to take preventive measures and adjust their nutrition plans accordingly.
- Consultation Support
AI-driven chatbots or virtual dieticians can provide real-time answers to questions related to nutrition, dietary choices, and health concerns. These virtual assistants can offer support and guidance, especially when immediate human consultation isn’t available.
- Research and Innovation
AI can accelerate nutritional research by processing vast amounts of data from scientific studies and clinical trials. This can lead to the discovery of new insights into the nutritional needs of mature consumers and the development of innovative food products tailored to their requirements.