The health food trend went mainstream primarily because of the millennial (aged between 22-37) consumer demographic, however, healthy food manufacturers might be missing out on the significant amount of consumers that are over 50-years-old. A recent survey conducted by the International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC) found that low-income Americans over 50-years-old are interested in eating healthy foods but they face a variety of challenges when it comes to selecting and purchasing such items.
The survey – comprised of 1,032 Americans over 50-years-old with household incomes that are under $35,000 – was conducted to understand the eating habits of this demographic and how important healthy food is to them. Although 60 percent of older consumers in general rated their health levels between eight and ten out of ten, only 38 percent of older consumers with low-incomes agree with these ratings. This is because of cost barriers, accessibility, physical ability and lack of knowledge, according to the report.
About 57 percent of low-income Americans over 50 said that cost is the most significant barrier for them, which is 13 percent higher than general consumers over 50. In addition, 16 percent of these low-income consumers claimed that accessibility and physical ability are barriers for them. Interestingly, 12 percent of these consumers simply do not have knowledge of healthy food options.
However, Alex Lewin-Zwerdling, Vice President of Research and Partnerships at IFIC, believes such barriers offer an opportunity for healthy food manufacturers. With almost 90 percent of low-income consumers over 50 claiming that it is never too late to change eating and lifestyle habits, and almost the same percentage saying that healthy eating is important for maintaining health, healthy food manufacturers have a new consumer demographic to consider. However, food companies need to change their millennial-targeted marketing techniques in order to appeal to the values and preferences of this older demographic.
“There is an enormous opportunity to improve the diets of Americans over 50. These consumers value health and they are motivated to eat well. But it’s important to understand why Americans over 50 are motivated,” Lewin-Zwerdling told Food Navigator USA.
An important factor to consider when developing products for older consumers is the key messaging of products. Although products that incorporate sustainability and nutrient claims on their packaging are great for targeting millennials, baby boomers and Gen X consumers do not place that much value on such qualities. According to IFIC’s research, consumers over 50 would like to eat well but not because they are concerned about weight management, instead, they actively look for foods that can help them prevent diseases and health issues in the future. In particular, consumers over 50 are concerned about cardiovascular health, brain function and muscle health and mobility. In addition, 72 percent of low-income consumers over 50 placed importance on mental and emotional health, compared to the 64 percent of higher-income consumers over 50.
Lewin-Zwerdling advises health food companies to consider what motivates older adults to strive for a healthier diet and lifestyle. She also mentioned that Americans over the age of 50 prefer fact-based marketing initiatives over quality of life and accessibility messages. This means that health food companies should focus on marketing ingredients that have been proven to have positive effects on the body. By putting these proven results (in the form of survey or clinical trial results) on product labels, food companies have a higher chance of attracting older health-focused consumers.
However, with the millennial demographic representing the largest workforce in America, health food manufacturers should continue producing more millennial targeted health-food products. Instead of reinventing such products, health food companies should consider producing better-for-you products specifically targeted for older generations.
A good example of this marketing technique is Abbott’s new Ensure Max Protein product, which is specifically designed for adults over 45 who want to “stay active and strong with age.” Abbott is currently marketing this new product by highlighting facts such as adults over 50 are not getting enough protein and as a person ages their daily protein intake recommendations change. The company has also hired 50-year-old actress Kate Walsh as a brand ambassador.
The 50-years or older consumer demographic in America consists of up to 81.3 million baby boomers and 65.6 million Gen X consumers, which means they hold a lot of buying power. If health food companies can tailor their products to the preferences and values of these demographics, just as they have for millennials, they will likely experience a significant increase in profits.