Targeting Beyond Millennials: Snacks For Aging Consumers

Megumi Matsunaga, a consultant for Euromonitor International Ltd., looks at the market for functional snacks for aging consumers.

Cleveland — Products targeting aging consumers are still niche, but advanced examples already exist in some countries with a higher median age, namely Japan. There are growth opportunities for targeting aging consumers in snacks in developed markets, albeit not exclusively.

Aging Consumers Are One-Quarter Of Global Population

As the population of elderly consumers increases across nations, more attention is being paid to this demographic. While manufacturers enjoyed success targeting millennials, snack product developments targeting older consumers are still underdeveloped in many countries.

The world’s population is rapidly aging. In 2020, 24 percent of the global population was aged 50 or older, according to Euromonitor International. By 2040, this population will reach 31 percent. More than 30 percent of the population in North America, Europe and Australasia are aged 50 or older. In the U.S., this age group will be even larger, reaching 40 percent by 2040.

Consumers Share Health Concerns Despite Different Backgrounds

Aging is one of the few phenomena that happens to everyone. Health problems related to aging are often caused naturally. Where and how consumers live can impact certain health concerns. Income largely impacts access to medication. Different geographical conditions, such as the weather, can increase the risks of certain health conditions.

However, given that aging is a universal phenomenon, the products that address common health issues can appeal to a large group of consumers regardless of their background. They often share the same concerns, such as memory and vision issues, across geographies, income levels, cultural differences and religious beliefs.

This is particularly beneficial for international brands when selling products in multiple countries. Although there are preferential differences, health concerns that aging consumers want to tackle can be the same across countries.

Addressing Aging Consumers’ Health Concerns

Most of the health issues among consumers aged 50 or older are common across developed and emerging markets. However, sleep problems and obesity/weight management ranked higher in developed markets compared to emerging markets. Products that tackle these health issues are expected to have strong potential.

Global Top 10 Health Issues Among Consumers Aged 50 or Older
Health issuesGlobal consumer rankingDeveloped market consumer rankingEmerging market consumer ranking
Eye/vision111
Joint and muscle pain222
Sleeping problems334
Upper digestive443
Obesity/weight management558
Stress and anxiety665
Lower digestive776
Headaches887
Seasonal allergies999
Skin health101110
Source: Euromonitor International Health and Nutrition Survey, fielded February 2020
Asia Pacific Leads Innovation In Eye/Vision Health Snack Products

Eye/vision issues was the top-ranked health concern among consumers aged 50 or older, according to Euromonitor International’s Health and Nutrition Survey, fielded February 2020. Only 11 percent of global respondents in this age group indicated that eye issues had “no impact” on their everyday life. While product variety remains limited, sales of packaged food with benefits for vision health are rising and will continue to do so as demand increases. North America and Asia Pacific are expected to continue leading sales of packaged food positioned for eye health. Active functional ingredients for supporting eye/vision health, such as lutein, are in the spotlight. The application of these ingredients is no longer limited to supplements and are expanding into packaged food products, including snacks.Prime examples of product development in this space include Shining Day, an eye care candy containing lutein from China, and Libera, an eye care chocolate confectionery containing lutein from Japan.

Memory Health Has Strong Potential In Snacks

Brain and memory health are among the most common issues related to aging. The recent boom in nootropics shows that young consumers desire to enhance memory health and improve performance. While demand from older consumers is strong, the products targeting these consumers remain niche.

Ginkgo biloba, known for its effectiveness in memory health, is thus enjoying increasing sales. However, this herb has a strong bitterness, making the application in products with sweet tastes challenging and therefore limited.

In Japan, an advanced market for memory health products, Maruzen Pharmaceuticals Co created an extract that is less bitter and easy to melt into food and drinks in 2019.Lotte Kiokuryoku Wo Ijusuru Gum is a chewing gum containing ginkgo leaf extract with functional claims for maintaining memory, targeting middle-aged and older consumers in Japan. Another example is IQBARs, keto-friendly protein bars from the U.S. containing six active ingredients for supporting cognitive energy, including Omega-3s, MCTS, flavonoids and choline.

Nostalgia: A Powerful Strategy

Snack manufacturers are aware of the demand for bringing back discontinued products for older consumers that they used to eat when they were younger.

This relaunching of brands is seen across the globe. For example, in the U.S., Ferrero (USA) Inc. acquired iconic confectionery and biscuits brands from Nestlé and The Kellogg Co. in recent years. Some of the brands Ferrero acquired have a strong heritage in the U.S. For example, Baby Ruth and Butterfinger were both launched almost 100 years ago, in 1921 and 1923, respectively.

Parle Products Pvt Ltd, a leading sugar confectionery manufacturer in India, brought back the previously discontinued brand, Poppins, to appeal not only to children but also older consumers who used to eat Poppins when they were young. The Poppins brand was first launched back in the 1950s. In 2019, Parle successfully relaunched this classic brand, which drew significant attention among consumers.

Nostalgia is not only an effective strategy to target consumers of all ages. For example, older consumers, such as baby boomers and The Silent Generation, will reconnect to their childhood when grandparenting by using the brands they ate or played with when they were young. The trend of appreciating their inner child, so-called “kidulting,” is most effectively seen with Generation X and millennials. For Generation Z, who are too young to forget their childhood, nostalgic products for other age groups are seen as “cool.”

COVID-19 Impact: Food As Remedies, Prevention

More consumers are interested in improving their health for the purposes of preventing illness, especially against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumers are leaning towards food and drink products with health benefits that can gradually improve both physical and mental resilience. The boundaries are blurring between supplements and food and drink products with health benefits. For consumers who snack and seek to maintain/improve their health, snacks with health benefits provide a two-in-one solution: snacking for enjoyment, while, at the same time, supporting health.

Megumi Matsunaga

Increasing interest in healthy eating is encouraging more consumers to seek out products that facilitate this. As a result, sales of health and wellness food and drinks are growing at a fast pace.

Contributor Info: Megumi Matsunaga is a consultant at Euromonitor International Ltd. with a focus on food and nutrition. Based in Tokyo, she has more than five years of experience in the industry and advises clients across a range of food industries on the global shifts impacting how people eat. She has a special interest in functional products.