The event, organised by NutraIngredients-Asia and FoodNavigator-Asia, has brought together industry, policymakers and academics to debate the business opportunities stemming from the region's ageing population.
According to AstaReal's Singapore president Vincent Wood, mobility is a common health concern across generations.
"Mobility is constantly popping up (as a health concern) — we have to make product formats that support that, and are convenient to take as well."
Innovations spanning generations
He also discussed the concept of a 'healthspan', the portion of one’s lifespan during which he can enjoy a healthy, active life devoid of chronic disease and disability.
He added that starting proper nutrition and supplementation at a younger age was vital to lengthening one's healthspan and emphasised the importance of innovation catering to different stages of life.
He argued that firms needed to understand the different health concerns across the generations in order to create popular products.
For instance, Generation Z (mid-20s and younger) usually needs nutritional support for cognitive, ocular and immune health, while for millennials (mid-20s to late 30s), skincare and energy are prioritised.
Generation X (late 30s to late 50s) is mainly concerned with immune, skin and digestive health. Baby boomers (mid-50s to late 70s) are more focused on cognitive, vision and cardiovascular health, while the Silent Generation (late 70s to mid-90s) faces challenges in malnutrition, dysphagia and sarcopenia.
Wood said supplements in suitable formats was a common interest for all age groups, and that Gen X consumers — commonly defined as those in their late 30s to 50s — were particularly focused on convenience, giving rise to opportunities for supplement formats that can be taken on the go.
Furthermore, pill fatigue, especially among older people, is helping to drive innovation in the industry.
When it came to astaxanthin specifically, Wood said it was a multi-purpose ingredient for all age groups, thanks to its numerous health benefits, including protecting eye health, increased muscle performance and endurance, and reduced muscle fatigue.
However, he further said its multiple health benefits were not enough to attract consumers, and that new, innovative formats like chewables, edible packaging, and beadlets were needed.
Spreading the science
Despite astaxanthin's prominent antioxidant properties, one challenge is that consumers tend to generalise all antioxidants as the same.
Wood said, "The oversimplification of antioxidants is a problem for the industry. Astaxanthin's antioxidant properties are unique.
"Its antioxidants are very good at pairing up with free radicals to neutralise the host environment, effectively lowering the oxidative stress burden in the body and boosting overall antioxidant status."
Furthermore, its mechanisms of action are difficult to explain, and eating something derived from algae tends to be unappealing to most consumers.
It was therefore imperative to 'spread the science', Wood said. He added that AstaReal was responsible for 51% of all clinical studies on astaxanthin, and that translating the science into language easily understood by consumers was necessary for businesses to succeed.
"We have a practitioner model in Japan that we've translated over to South East Asia, with medical conferences and workshops in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. The older generation is more receptive to healthcare professionals, and we educate doctors who can then educate consumers on astaxanthin."
He said more research collaborations into key areas of preventative measures, as well as with contract manufacturers and brands to develop and market products aimed at older consumers, were on the cards for AstaReal.
"Companies need to make their products relevant to everyday health concerns instead of just talking about how great astaxanthin is. This includes wearables and IOT to allow for real-time measurements linked to personalised nutrition, such as wearable antioxidant status trackers.
"When you combine Australasia and Asia, they make up over 20% of the world's astaxanthin market, and it's only going to get bigger because people are getting more health-conscious. In fact, the number of new products being developed every year in Asia Pacific matches that in Europe.
"We are focusing on the healthspan concept to develop opportunities for each generation. Education of the healthspan concept and translation of the science to consumer speak is an art. No one size fits all, so we must make alternative products to deliver the benefits across generations."