Averse to ageing

By Lorraine Mullaney

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Whey protein Nutrition

Functional drinks such as high-protein drinking yogurt have proved a popular format
Functional drinks such as high-protein drinking yogurt have proved a popular format
Western consumers don’t want to be considered old, which makes marketing anti-ageing products a challenge, says Lorraine Mullaney

Key points

Snail slime. Containing collagen, glycolic acid, antibiotics and compounds that regenerate skin cells, it’s reportedly a popular anti-ageing product in Tokyo. Now the first industrial snail mucus manufacturing business is being set up in France in a bid to captivate the European market.

Whether it will take off in Europe or not is yet to be seen but one thing's certain: we're all ageing. Some of us are just closer to the finishing line. In addition to wrinkles, the delightful process brings loss of muscle mass plus declining heart, bone, cognitive and digestive health. Not a pretty picture even worse if you have age-related macular degeneration.

But it’s a picture we need to become accustomed to. The Office of National Statistics projects that the over-65s will account for 23% of the UK's population by 2035.

A pool of affluent consumers for food and drink manufacturers to tap into, surely? But the increasing numbers of ‘seniors’ are not matched by increasing numbers of product launches targeting the over-55s.

Less than 0.1% of the global food and drink launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in the 12 months ending October 2012 were positioned on an anti-ageing or ‘ageing well’ platform.

Challenges (Return to top)

So what’s holding the industry back? Health claims legislation for one thing. Gelita, for example, had high hopes for its collagen-based Verisol product in the ‘beauty from within’ market. But the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) rejected its application for Article 13.5 approval under the health and nutrition claims regulation in June.

So it’s hard for manufacturers to communicate the anti-ageing benefits of their products and stay legal.

Mintel’s director of innovation and insight, David Jago, says: “Some firms tried to get around it by repositioning products but the on-pack messages end up being woolly.”

To add to the marketers’ burden, consumers don't like messages that remind them they are, shall we say, of a certain age. Not in the west, anyway.

“Asian products target consumers who are over 50 or 60 but age is revered and respected there,”​ says Jago. “People in the UK don't want to be reminded. They shouldn’t realise they're being marketed to, it’s about finding appropriate solutions that don't exclude them.”

Arla Food Ingredients (AFI) concurs that food and drink marketers have a tricky balance to strike.

AFI's business development manager for performance health & nutrition, Lindsey Ormond, explains: “Food manufacturers need to get the balance between informing the consumer of a product’s benefits and not making them feel old just by picking the product up off the shelf.”

But marketing is not the only challenge. Manufacturers must also deliver the functional ingredient in a format that is easy for the consumer to accommodate.

Fit into daily routines (Return to top)

Ormond, explains: “Ideally, a product shouldn't require a dramatic change in lifestyle or diet it should fit seamlessly into a person’s existing routine. Providing a product format that fits into older people’s current diets, that is recognised as nutritionally superior and worth switching to, while tasting good, is a tough but not impossible challenge.

“There are a number of options with regard to format. These include a daily ‘shot’ such as Actimel and Benecol nutrient-enriched everyday products such as milk and bread, or categories like tailored milkshakes.”

Functional drinks are a popular format. AFI, for example, recently launched a whey protein concentrate for beverages: Lacprodan DI-7017. Whey protein is said to be beneficial for reducing muscle loss during advancing years, thanks to its composition of amino acids.

AFI says its new product can help manufacturers overcome formulation challenges because it is stable in ultra-high temperature formulations at a neutral pH. Ormond says: “This is quite innovative, since adding whey protein to ready-to-drink products has always been a challenge one that has been overcome by using alternative but less nutritious protein sources.

“The important thing is for manufacturers to produce good-tasting products with the right ingredients, in a convenient format while setting the language and tone of marketing at the right level. Messages could be more about ‘staying young’ than ‘anti-ageing’, for example.”

She suggests the food industry uses the success of anti-ageing beauty product firms as a model of inspiration on how to sell products to this demographic effectively.

Bionov makes ingredients for the skin beauty, well-being and anti-ageing markets. It recently presented its new anti-ageing ingredient for instant drinks applications Primo-antioxidant S at Vitafoods in Asia.

Claimed to be ‘the only natural melon juice concentrate rich in SuperOxide Dismutase with significant antioxidant bioactivity’, the active ingredient can be used in instant drinks. Dispersable in water at cold temperature, the coating is also stable in water and acid conditions, tasteless and colourless. But it doesn't have health claims approval.

Legal barrier (Return to top)

As the legal barrier ensues, manufacturers continue to gather evidence to support the functional properties of their products. Rousselot will present a 2013 clinical study supporting the anti-ageing benefits of its collagen peptides range, Peptan, at the Food Ingredients Europe show in Germany this November. Peptan is designed to support mobility while ageing and promote healthy bones, joints and muscles. It can be used in functional food and drinks, dietary supplements, protein bars, powder and gummies. As collagen peptides are a protein source, claims permitted include: ‘Protein contributes to the maintenance of normal bones' and 'Protein contributes to growth in muscle mass’.

And still the research continues. Dairy manufacturers Glanbia and Carbery continue to work with Food for Health Ireland to investigate the anti-ageing potential of whey protein. Meanwhile, breakthroughs in vegetable protein research science into wheat and soy are opening up opportunities for non-dairy drinks.

While the link between omega-3 and cognitive health has been well explored, last month the journal Neurology reported on a study that linked cocoa flavanols to improving blood flow to the brain, which could help dementia sufferers.

Research is also ongoing on the positive effects of lutein for age-related macular degeneration – an area in which Mintel claims consumers have expressed interest.

Jago says: “There are hardly any products out there addressing improved eyesight or vision. Our data shows consumers have strong interest in that area but it would take a major firm to put serious investment in.”

So the functionality is there, but with the complexity of the marketing and the restriction of the legislation, can food manufacturers make the most of this lucrative demographic?

Some have hope. Principal market analyst for Leatherhead Food Research Jonathan Thomas is author of the report ‘Catering to an ageing population’. He believes the answer is catching consumers who are keen on prevention rather than cure. He says: “People are now looking to lead healthier lifestyles at an earlier age, which remains a main driver. They want to head off problems by paying attention to their health.”

AFI thinks the market has far to go. Ormond says: “In five years, the market will be better developed than today, particularly in the dairy aisle, but will be yet to experience its peak. Key messages are likely to be around ‘staying young and active’, as older consumers continue to demand more out of life in terms of family time, hobbies, travelling and career.”

Perhaps snail slime will be big in the ‘beauty from within’ sector in future. Try getting the marketing message right on that.

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