Consumers are living longer, and that means there’s a growing market for food and beverage products that target the aging population. But companies that focus on age-related messages risk alienating their audience, Mintel analysts Jenny Zegler and Lynn Dornblaser told the crowd in attendance at an IFTNEXT stage presentation on Tuesday afternoon.
“The only people who are excited to be seniors are high school seniors,” said Zegler, associate director, Mintel Food & Drink, who is a Millennial. “Nobody else wants to be told that.”
“I think the key is to talk about the benefit versus ‘this is for you because you’re older,’” said Dornblaser, Mintel director of innovation and insight and a Baby Boomer. “It’s so important not to treat an aging consumer as someone who isn’t smart enough to know how to feed themselves,” Dornblaser added.
Unfortunately—and perhaps surprisingly—some companies are making that mistake. The analysts cited the example of Perennial, a nutritious ready-to-drink beverage targeted to older consumers. The formulation is excellent, they said, but the message on the company’s website discusses the youthful founders’ goal of creating a product suitable for their 50-plus parents and describes consumers in this population segment as a “forgotten demographic,” messaging that Dornblaser described as “demeaning.”
"Longer lifespans are making all ages the audience for healthy aging food and drink,” said Zegler. “It’s not just about marketing by age or demographic.”
The analysts suggested that product developers take inspiration from the beauty industry, which does a good job of proactively and positively positioning products for older consumers. “The beauty industry is shifting and showing older consumers with gray hair and wrinkles and age spots and realizing there’s nothing wrong with that,” said Dornblaser. “There are ways to talk positively about aging.”
In the food and beverage segment, Dornblaser cited the example of the nutritional beverage Ensure, which has repositioned itself over the years—moving from a hospital product in a metal can used for feeding tubes to an attractively packaged ready-to-drink beverage with a more contemporary image.
In fact, the Mintel presenters advised the audience to avoid getting locked into any one age-related positioning. Zegler shared the example of Pedialyte, an electrolyte solution that used to be associated primarily with rehydrating sick kids but now is also subtly positioned as a rehydration beverage for adults who’ve overindulged in alcoholic beverages.