Changing needs of aging population driving Glanbia NPD

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17 Jun 2017 --- As medical advancements and innovations continue to push boundaries and a greater awareness of eating well ripples throughout the generations, logic dictates that people will live longer. However, it’s not just about living longer; it’s about living better. People are becoming increasingly aware of the function of their food and beverages at a younger age. It is not necessarily the preoccupation of the 60+ person anymore; each life stage has its own variety of challenges. The health concerns among these different categories are a key driver of new product development. 

Innova Market Insights data show that for the 40+ category, thinking about keeping “fit and beautiful” is a priority which can mean more of a focus on skin and digestive health as well as overall immunity. While for the 60+ age group, challenges center on staying independent and this means emphasis on brain and heart health alongside mobility. And for the 80+ category, keeping well, staving off disease and illness are significantly higher priorities (dysphagia, malnutrition and sarcopenia) and functional foods become entwined with receiving medical attention.

Dagmar Ortlepp, from Glanbia Nutritionals, believes consumers are starting to worry about their health at a much younger age.

Click to Enlarge“Awareness is continuing to grow about the importance of healthy aging – particularly as the population is getting increasingly older. In the G20 group of nations, the 50+ population is expected to grow by 37 percent to 1.8 billion in the next decade and a half,” she tells NutritionInsight.

“We are seeing consumers start to worry about their health and nutrition earlier than ever, from the age of 40 onwards. This shift in consumer behavior will start to impact the growth of healthy food and beverages that specifically target aging. As such, we will see an increased trend for natural, clean label and functionality from sports nutrition, as consumers pay more attention to their health in advancing years.”

“However, each life stage presents varied challenges for healthy aging – consumers in their forties will require a different level of functionality and will prefer alternative flavors and formats to consumers in their eighties.”

Ortlepp says that functional ingredients, therefore, need to be further developed to fit the changing market needs and to differentiate between age groups. 

“For example, older people can find it difficult to eat and digest foods that are high in protein. Whey protein is a readily available, high biological value source of vital amino acids, which can be a cost-effective way of supplementing concentrated protein into food and beverages.”

Glanbia’s functional ingredient portfolio is targeted to each different life stage. For instance, active aging consumers want to supplement their food and beverages with protein for muscle maintenance and sarcopenia, complemented with the right blend of nutrients to support bone health. 

“The most convenient format for this age group is ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages, as many consumers are still following active, on-the-go lifestyles,” Ortlepp continues. 

“Glanbia Nutritionals recently developed a prototype for protein-fortified chocolate indulgence in this category – to showcase how these functional ingredients can be delivered together in a desirable way.”

Ortlepp believes new product developments could also lie in further addressing the needs of the aging population, surrounding issues like allergies that develop later in life, as well as clean-labels, convenience and the clarity of packaging. 

“A key concern for the elderly population is convenience. We have a range of ingredients that can be incorporated into a wide range of convenient formats, such as bars and RTD beverages. However, a challenge for formulating healthy aging food and drink is that the way we taste food and beverages changes as we age. Flavor is, therefore, an important consideration for formulators of healthy aging food and beverage products,” he says. 

“Late-onset food allergies can be a concern for older generations, as immune systems also start to age – particularly as malnutrition can lower the immune system. Developing functional ingredients that are allergen and gluten-free has meant that a wider variety of food and beverage products are available for the aging population. We predict that awareness will grow about food allergy concerns in the elderly – paving the way for more allergen-free new products to be introduced in the future.”

“Aging populations also prefer clearer labels and simplified ingredients, to better understand what they are eating. As such, incorporating clean label ingredients into food and beverages can help to ensure end-products that meet the needs of the elderly.”

“Another area where we see huge potential is the grains and seeds market. Milled chia and flax seed can be easily incorporated into liquid or powder formulations, as a way to either increase beverage viscosity or undetectably adding nutrition. This enables seniors to improve their nutritional profile and increase fiber intake in a convenient and accessible way,” she adds. 

Pea protein has also increased in popularity with food and beverage manufacturers – and for good reason. Free from dairy, it is an appealing alternative to whey protein, helping to cater to the elderly population’s growing food allergies and vegan preferences.”

This article is based on a longer feature on healthy aging to appear in the July/August issue of The World of Food Ingredients (NutritionInsight).

For a video interview about Glanbia's pea protein product, see here

by Gaynor Selby

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