Mature Consumers Want To Have Their Cake. And Eat It, Too!

It is evident that as we age, our bodies change, often leading to impaired digestion, a phenomenon that often has a drastic effect on our nutrient and dietary requirements. To the majority of aging Boomers, this just means that we can't always enjoy the foods we used to, at least not without some unpleasant repercussions. But, according to some industry experts, older consumers aren't necessarily changing their eating habits, thanks to a proliferation of prescription and over-the-counter medications.

Some recent focus groups conducted by a major research firm revealed how the mature market is changing its eating habits. While some reported eating smaller meals and avoiding spicy or creamy dishes, the majority of participants were unwilling to change their diets simply because they'd gotten older. They want to try new things, and refuse to have their choices restricted by indigestion or other nuisances. In fact, one participant stated, "I eat what I want -- I just take the pill [Zantac] and I'm ready to go!"

Aging bodies also tolerate and metabolize drugs differently than do those of a younger person. The risk of experiencing drug side effects is seven times greater for those over age 65. And finally, according to CNN, some 16% have changed eating habits as a result of some gastrointestinal ailment.

When it comes to eating, the areas of greatest concern for Boomers are:

• Heart health: "Healthy," "smart" and "convenient" are key phrases that attract consumers

• Bone health: Claims and ingredients vary widely, but overall focus is on vitality

• Digestive health: Ease of digestion and overall comfort are important

• Joint health: While not solely focused on the mature market, these products can certainly help this demographic.

Research has also shown that wellness is dimensional, finds Sodexo Senior Living, and each dimension is important to consumers.

• Wellness is about "feeling good," "peace of mind" and "life balance"

• It is not exclusively -- or even primarily -- physical

• Consumers are concerned about and see the value in the different dimensions of wellness, making them all -- collectively -- important (defined dimensions include Physical, Nutritional, Social, Emotional, Spiritual, Intellectual, Community and Environmental)

For marketers, an understanding of and appreciation for this holistic approach to health and wellness will certainly give them an edge when trying to connect with the mature segment. For example, General Mills maintains a "healthy recipe" site where consumers are encouraged to submit their recipes (in return, they receive healthier versions of the original recipe).

Boomers also love to reflect on the "good old days" in a variety of ways, including in terms of food and beverage. Some examples include General Mill's Cheerios cereal with retro packaging, and PepsiCo's Pepsi Throwback, sold with the original graphics and original formula. (FYI -- Throwback grossed $35 million in sales in the first 60 weeks. Not bad for a product originally intended as a limited edition).

So what can marketers do to meet the needs of the mature consumer?

• Formulate products that meet a changing physiology;

• Subtly educate them as to what they can do to continue enjoying your products;

• Reformulate recipes, add supplements or suggest food combinations;

• Consider the aspects of your brand's heritage that will connect with this market segment, and bring them to the forefront.

Whether they like it or not, mature consumers (Boomers and beyond) acknowledge the physiological differences they're experiencing, but are not willing to give up the foods and flavors they love. They're finding ways around the issue, whether it's in a pill, in smaller portions, or by eating at different times of the day. They're going to have their cake -- and eat it, too!

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1 comment about "Mature Consumers Want To Have Their Cake. And Eat It, Too!".
  1. Arthur Koff from RetiredBrains.com , September 22, 2011 at 11:47 a.m.

    Reaching Mature Consumers

    I agree with Derek's thoughts in his Mature Consumers article, but would like to add that we have found editorial style advertising which provides information on a product or service and then links to where additional information can be found is much more effective than titles and banners in most cases.

    Unless the product or service is a "household name" our experience has been that banners are not the best way to get business from older Americans.

    We have run tests that support this view.