Speaking at the 7th DSM Health Academy in Tokyo, Gita de Beer, DSM Nutritional Products' Global VP of Marketing (Food & Beverage), said that apart from Japan, industry was not taking advantage of the health and nutrition opportunities in the senior market.
"We need to look at older consumers and consider their life expectancy. They want to be healthy but the reality is many of them are not, because businesses are not providing enough products and services.
"Globally, only 1% of all such innovations is targeted at these consumers, and only 10% of all marketing is spent on them. But older consumers tend to have more money — though this is not the case for every country — and are more willing to spend, so brands need to tap into that."
She added that Japan was an anomaly in this regard, with 41% of its health and nutrition innovations targeted at the elderly. "This is a huge opportunity to export that knowledge to the West, which is not there yet," she said.
Also speaking at the conference was André Rhoen, DSM Nutritional Products' Asia-Pacific VP of Human Nutrition & Health, who revealed that in the APAC region, consumers aged 45 and above tended to be more affluent and spend more, while those between the ages of 60 and 64 earned 25% more on average than those in other age groups.
De Beer also pointed out that while age was a major component in developing solutions and marketing them to seniors, there were other equally crucial factors to consider.
"More people are now celebrating ageing, and they want to be healthier for longer. But we must remember that no one size fits all. This isn't just about age group, but also about mindset and lifestyle. If you understand how they think, you would be better able to target specific sets of older consumers."
In addition, she identified four groups of older consumers, one of which was termed the 'deniers' — they have no intention of changing their lifestyle choices as they age, regardless of the possible consequences.
The key to successfully marketing suitable health and nutrition solutions to them, de Beer said, was to offer them solutions that do not require them to change their habits.
Roamers are older consumers who spend their time and money largely on travelling the world, and as such, primarily require convenient products and services that are travel-friendly, such as conveniently packaged health foods and dietary supplements.
Proofers are seniors who are well aware of the effects of ageing and therefore make the effort to stay active and healthy. In their case, it is important for businesses to ensure availability of and ease of access to suitable health and nutrition solutions.
Workers are older adults who have no intention of retiring, and who need goods and services that can help them stay healthy amid their busy lifestyles.
Communication, not condescension
The way companies communicate with seniors was another point both Rhoen and de Beer emphasised.
Rhoen emphasised the importance of simplifying the language used to reach older consumers, so it would be easier to convince them of the health benefits of certain products and services.
He said, "If I talk to my daughter's great-grandmother the way I talk to my colleagues, for example, she wouldn't understand me.”
But while simple language is useful for consumer reach, brands should also take care not to label seniors simply as 'old'. Instead, de Beer said, they should take the time and effort to understand them and their needs better.
"Successful brands in this space are the ones that communicate with older consumers on the same level (instead of talking down to them), that understand their needs and respect their intelligence."
What seniors want
De Beer highlighted two main priorities most older consumers have: tradition and convenience. Many are used to traditional dishes and drinks, and to help them improve their health without needing to drastically change their dietary habits, many brands are making traditional food products with a nutritional twist.
They also prize convenience — packaging must be easy to open and products easy to consume, characteristics that would make it easier for seniors to access nutritious products that can benefit their health.
Rhoen listed some of the top health concerns for seniors in Japan, with eye health, energy levels and prevention of later-life diseases being the top three.
He said, "The opportunity for us as an industry lies not only in what we can do to make one’s later years easier (especially in the case of illness), but also in helping to prevent the illnesses that make those years more difficult in the first place.
"Consumers are waiting for us to come up with solutions to help them in their ageing journey. The good news is that Japan is the leading country in products for people over 55, and provides a good example for other countries with ageing populations."