Healthy ageing mini report
The World Health Organization defines healthy ageing as “the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables wellbeing in...
Healthy ageing opportunities
Wider consumer pools, market developments and emerging ingredients
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Longer life expectancy and growing consumer pool evolving need
The World Health Organization defines healthy ageing as “the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables wellbeing in older age.” As the global population ages, there is interest from consumers in increasing health span—the length of life free from serious ailments. Diet, exercise and a positive mindset all contribute, but so does the power of natural ingredients to support the function of the joints, heart, mind and body.
Across all sectors of the population, driven in part by dissatisfaction with the healthcare system, consumers are experiencing a renewed sense of self-responsibility and taking back their wellbeing decisions. With healthy ageing being promoted to even the youngest of generations, brands and manufacturers are redefining the ‘ageing’ target market.
Today’s ageing consumer
According to the United Nations, the global population aged 65 and over is growing faster than all other age groups; according to data from their 2019 revision of the World Population Prospects, by 2050, one in six people in the world will be aged 65 or over.
Additionally, the elderly population are also living longer. The World Bank and OECD data suggest that the global average life expectancy today is 73—seven years more than that of 20 years ago at 66. But living for longer doesn’t necessarily mean living healthier.
The global population aged 65 and over is growing faster than all other age groups, and by 2050, one in 6 people in the world will be aged 65 or over.
United Nations, World Population Prospects 2019
More elderly people are now living with multiple chronic human diseases at once. These including diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other conditions related to an increase in age, such as hearing loss, dementia, arthritis and osteoporosis. Elderly people are also more likely to experience accidents, owing to mobility challenges. Consumers are now aware of this, and in recent years there has been a large shift in consumer behaviour towards ‘prevention’ rather than ‘treatment.’
Today’s ageing consumers are looking for natural, science-backed solutions that improve their quality of life without negatively affecting their lifestyle.
As I age, I worry most about
- Mental acuity
- Loss of vision
- Sexual dysfunction
Click here to download the 2020 Vitafoods Insights healthy ageing report
Although millennials often garner the most attention, Hannah Ackerman (registered dietician and corporate communications manager at Comet Bio) reminds us that the baby boomer generation represents a sizable portion of the global population. Looking at the United States, she notes that as baby boomers enter their next life phase, demographics are going to change; by 2030, one-in-five Americans is projected to be 65 years old and over. As generational distributions shift, it will become increasingly important for food and beverage manufacturers to anticipate the unique health demands of consumers at different life stages. “Baby boomers are already taking a more proactive approach in maintaining their health than previous generations says Ackerman, and we see them actively seeking preventative options to help delay age-related declines in body form and function.
Meeting individual needs
Emerging categories that meet consumer demands
We see a variety of different approaches to ageing, which depends on an individual’s needs and lifestyle. Some consumers may prioritise functions such as mobility and flexibility, due to a more active lifestyle, whereas others may prioritise cognitive function due to a more mentally stimulating lifestyle. Either way, both will lead to what Max Gowland, founder of Prime Fifty, describes as key to living a healthier life: independence.
Through primary research of over 1,000 over-50-year-olds, Prime Fifty’s study concluded that seniors just want to stay active, mobile, and independent as they age and that seniors are now, more than ever, realising that it is possible to extend their healthy life by exercise and good nutrition. Additionally, National Food Intake studies confirm that the over 50s population lacks many key micronutrients—with many not meeting recommended daily allowances, a minimum requirement.
Sun-Ho Frank Kim highlights the growing opportunity to provide non-pharma solutions that address prostate health for men and menopause health for women. Current raw materials and ingredient sources are extremely limited, and industry stakeholders and consumers alike are eager to expand their choices, says Kim.
Additionally, and emphasised now more than ever under lockdown circumstances, eye health and weight management will emerge as even stronger concerns due to screen times soaring, and a reduction in physical activity for many.
Seniors just want to stay active, mobile, and independent as they age.
Dr Max Gowland, founder, Prime Fifty
Of course, we cannot ignore how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will impact product development in the immune health category—especially as R&D experts seek to tailor solutions targeted at the vulnerable population.
There is an estimated link between microbiome health and immunity, and Ackerman shares that older consumers are increasingly looking for ways to maintain their digestive health, such as by incorporating prebiotic and probiotic dietary fibre into their diet that supports the growth of good bacteria.
What's next for the healthy ageing category?
Emerging ingredients and the future of healthy ageing
There are many well-documented and researched ingredients that offer healthy ageing benefits. As more of these come to market, manufacturers are provided with the opportunity to diversify product ranges, which excites supply chain stakeholders and end consumers.
Professor Jian Guan, at the University of Auckland, highlights the potential of the New Zealand blackcurrant in its ability to prevent age-related declines in cognitive function and maintain normal blood pressure.
The New Zealand blackcurrant has high levels of the compound cyclic Glycine-Proline (cGP), which is mediated through regulating IGF-1 function, and shares the mechanism of IGF-1 which has been well researched in literature generated over the past 50 years, explains Guan, and the effects of cGP in improving vascular circulation through normalising the function of IGF-1 has been well documented in the last 20 years.
Another promising ingredient is pollen extract, Kim highlights its benefits in both men and women thanks to its various sterol compounds obtained from lipophilic fraction, as well as various amino acids and derivatives obtained from hydrophilic fraction. Pollen extract also has applications in pharmaceuticals, nutritional supplements, functional foods, and skincare products, with health claims including increased prostate health in men, urinary health, liver support and menopause health in women.
Innovation can also take inspiration from local fruits and vegetables, representative of healthy dietary traditions.
One of the newer ingredients on the market is aged black garlic, which has traditionally been used in Japanese cuisine but has now made its way into the nutraceutical world, thanks to its high antioxidant and cardioprotective activity. “Additionally, its organoleptic properties have also helped make it one of the newest extracts in the healthy ageing category,” Ortega says.
Damage associated with oxidative stress remains a key area of concern among ageing consumers, and there is established interest in antioxidant ingredients that prevent the cumulative tissue degradation process that occurs with age. There's a plethora of research backing astaxanthin as one of the most powerful antioxidants on the market, and there are also studies on its neuroprotective action thanks to its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and exert its antioxidant and inflammatory properties within the brain. Its beneficial effect on the circulatory system also helps to maintain central nervous system function.
The future of healthy ageing
Kim highlights that even majorly developed countries are experiencing rising medical cost associated with an ageing population. He forecasts that the future of innovative solutions for seniors will be non-pharma intervention, with necessary perception change taking place at the consumer and policy level.
There's potential for further synergy between different ingredients, such as collagen and carotenoids combinations in the skincare space. Consumers understand collagens benefits and have long integrated it into their beauty routines – now they’re looking for new ingredients that can support it. Carotenoids which help influence overall skin appearance, and even balance the skin’s natural collagen levels, are the perfect partners.
While there are without doubts, many exotic and novel botanicals that could be investigated for healthy ageing benefits, innovation can also take inspiration from local fruits and vegetables, representative of healthy dietary traditions.
Whilst the healthy ageing category continues to deliver a plethora of innovative ingredients and products, a consumer shift towards preventative and age-inclusive solutions will drive new opportunities for the industry. This will enable consumers to adopt dietary habits that will prove to be key in preventing an abundance of diseases later in life.
Which ingredient shows the most potential for the healthy ageing category?
- The New Zealand blackcurrant
- Black garlic
- Pollen extract
Hannah Ackermann is corporate communications manager, Comet Bio is a registered dietitian. Before joining Comet Bio, Ackerman worked in nutrition communications at leading global market research and public relations firms. She holds bachelor's degrees in nutritional science and journalism from Indiana University, Bloomington and an MBA in marketing from Dominican University, Chicago.
Max Gowland, Ph.D., founder and managing director at Prime Fifty, is dedicated to helping the over 50s stay active via targeted nutritional supplements, specifically formulated for the ageing metabolism. He holds a doctorate in amino acid biochemistry from Nottingham University. Starting his career at Procter & Gamble, he then went on to become global R&D director for Reckitt Benckiser before joining Jeyes Group as their chief innovation officer. Dr Gowland then co-founded Prime Fifty Ltd, dedicated to the health and wellbeing of the over 50s.
Jian Guan, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor, University of Auckland, completed a bachelor of medicine at Wuhan University, China, in 1982, and then a doctorate in paediatrics at Auckland University, New Zealand in 1996. Her studies discovered the function and mechanism of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) in preventing stroke injuries and promoting stroke recovery. Amongst all published journal articles, she has primary authorships (first or correspondent and senior authorships) in more than 70% of them. She is the inventor of 14 granted international patents.
Sun-Ho Frank Kim, Ph. D., owner and president, SEAH bio solution, has a doctorate and honours degree in biomaterial science and technology from Yonsei University and is currently the owner and president of SEAH bio solution based in Seoul, Korea. He has over 29 years of experience in R&D, technology-oriented marketing, sourcing in pharma, nutraceuticals and food technology. He now assumes positions introducing new nutraceutical ingredients to European and Japanese markets.