Food industry needs to help people age healthily

- Last updated on GMT

Majority of bone health products focused on babies
Majority of bone health products focused on babies

Related tags: Bone health, Vitamin d, Osteoporosis, Bone

There are more people in the world aged over 60 than ever before. Michelle Perrett discovers what the industry needs to do to help them age healthily.

Key points

As more of the global population fights the onslaught of wrinkles they will also be dealing with a range of potential health problems.

It’s not a nice list – coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke, declining muscle mass, cognitive and digestive health – to name a few.

Add to this the increase in dementia and osteoarthritis and getting old is looking like a depressing prospect.

Yet, older people still want to be active, which is why bone and joint health is an increasingly important area for the sector to tackle.

The latest statistics from the UK Office of National Statistics reveal that since the 1970s the population of over-65s has grown by 47%, while the number aged over 75 has grown by 89%.

These two groups now make up 26% of the UK population. And this is not just a UK trend.

‘Population ageing’ (Return to Top)

According to the latest figures from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the phenomenon of ‘population ageing’ means that by 2050 all major areas of the world, except for Africa, will have nearly a quarter or more of their population aged 60 or over.

That means there will be an increasing number of people fighting the onslaught of bone and joint deterioration and, in the worst-case scenario, osteoporosis.

The National Osteoporosis Society estimates there are currently close to 3M people in the UK who have the condition, while one in two women and one in five men over the age of 50 will break a bone, mainly because of poor bone health.

The combined cost of hospital and social care for patients with hip fractures alone amounts to more than £2.3bn a year.

Diet is important, along with exercise. According to the British Nutrition Foundation, a balanced diet and nutrients are essential.

Mintel reports there is a lack of product launches in the sector specifically targeting the older age group. But demand will grow as the population ages, it predicts.

Mintel looked at global food and drink products launched between 2010 and October 2014.

Dairy, baby food and breakfast cereals were the most common categories featuring a calcium claim, accounting for 37%, 14%, and 11% of launches, respectively.

Products with added vitamin D were found in similar categories.

During the same period, 40% of food and drink products launched with vitamin D were in the dairy category, 21% in the baby food category, and 12% in the breakfast cereal category.

Focused on babies (Return to Top)

“The majority of bone health products are focused on babies, toddlers and children. Only 1% of food and drink products launched between 2010 and October 2014 with a bone health claim also had a demographic claim for seniors,”​ says Stephanie Mattucci, global food science analyst, in a Mintel report titled Nutrition, Health & Wellness.

“Very few products only 1% have also featured a demographic claim for seniors aged 55+ and less than 1% have had a claim for men.”

Calcium-fortified foods are especially important in the Asian market, where the median calcium intake is low across the region.

The result has been that the majority (47%) of food and drink launches with added calcium claims have occurred in the Asia Pacific region, Mintel reveals.

Innova Market Insights’ own research reveals a similar trend.

Between the years 2011 and 2014 the number of global product launches tracked with bone health claims tripled, with even higher growth seen in Asian markets.

Özden Kilic, manager of market analysis at Innova Market Insights, told Food Ingredients, Health & Nutrition: “New product development is increasing.

“We see more and more products being launched with health claims that are relevant to this group. And delivering the right benefits is very important for this target market.”

However, Kilic says a major issue is that these products are not being targeted at the senior market specifically.

“Bone health is challenging because it is easy to replicate from a research and development point of view but difficult to market,”​ he adds.

He highlights the Anlene milk product in Asia that has managed to effectively target this market by offering free bone scans supported by nutritional advice.

This consumer engagement allows people to understand the product better than traditional advertising.

Senior market (Return to Top)

While many markets are behind in this type of innovation, there is a small move in the UK towards more products targeting this senior market.

The National Osteoporosis Society operates a number of partnerships promoting bone health and products.

Cal-in+ Yogurt, produced by Yoplait UK, which contains high levels of calcium and vitamin D, has been a supporter and partner of the charity since 2012.

The society is also working in partnership with retailer Marks & Spencer, which recently announced that it would enrich its bread with vitamin D.

Rousselot, the collagen and gelatine manufacturer, is at the forefront of developing ingredients that could help ‘seniors’ with bone and joint health issues.

The company is working to increase awareness of the role of nutrition in the prevention of musculoskeletal conditions and has become the nutrition supporter of World Osteoporosis Day in 2015.

In November, at Food Matters Live in London, Rousselot along with Fortified Food Coatings, will present a new concept in ready meals for the ageing population.

It will unveil the details of a new technology that uses a food printer to spray a thin layer of gelatine enriched with Peptan collagen peptides, calcium and vitamin D over restaurant-quality ready meals.

Rousselot says the protein Peptan collagen peptides works alongside calcium and vitamin D to promote the healthy functioning of bones, supporting the whole musculoskeletal body and improving joint flexibility.

Unawareness (Return to Top)

“Most consumers are aware of the importance of calcium and vitamin D supplementation for stronger bones while the role of proteins is not so well known.

“Proteins such as collagen peptides are essential for healthy bones as they promote intestinal calcium absorption and stimulate bone formation,” ​says Dr Elke De Clerck, technical support and development manager Europe, Rousselot.

“As the most abundant protein in the body, collagen makes up 90% of bones’ organic scaffold, provides the structural framework for calcium and other minerals and is responsible for flexibility.”

While Rousselot is working to introduce ingredients that help with bone and joint health, supplements are also an untapped market.

There is a range of vitamin brands on the market, but start-up business Prime Fifty, specifically targets the over-50s on musculoskeletal health.

Dr Max Gowland, previously chief innovation officer at Jeyes, says bone and joint health is just one part of the issue as older people need to focus on muscle, bone, joints and energy.

“We did market research of over 1,000 50+ people and I sat through six focus groups where 12 people were present at a time,”​ he says.

“We were trying to get what they were most terrified of losing and without a doubt they wanted to hold onto mobility.”

​Holistic​ approach (Return to Top)

While products fortified with vitamin D and calcium are important, it is a more “holistic”​ approach that is needed, he argues.

“Bone is a living tissue that contains not only bones but nerves, cartilage and connective tissue.

“If you look at bone only about 65% is hard mineral, the rest is soft and a very strong protein called collagen, which holds everything together.

“You can’t talk about bones without talking about collagen.”

This is why Prime Fifty products not only target the issues of bone loss but related issues such as ligaments and tendons.

As well as calcium and vitamin D it includes vitamin K, magnesium and zinc for general bone health as well as vitamin C, manganese and copper to help maintain tendons, ligaments and collagen formation.

So as we are fighting the wrinkles of old age, food firms need to help us stay mobile and fight the onslaught of declining bone and joint health.

There is no option, as more of us are getting older. It’s a fact.

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