How Food Companies Can Make the Most of Longer Lives

The food industry has been somewhat ponderous in responding to the ageing global population. Ben Cooper looks at how food companies can most effectively meet the needs of the growing ranks of older consumers and maximise the commercial rewards on offer.
May 13, 2019 2:30 PM ET

By Ben Cooper

By definition, population trends concerning people aged over 60 do not crop up overnight, and food companies stand accused of being slow to recognise and respond to this opportunity. "There's an over-fixation on Millennials within food," says Hamish Renton, managing director of UK food and drink consultancy HRA Global. "The older demographic is under-served. Segmenting by life stage is quite sensible and I don't think it's something the food industry does terribly well."

Jeanine Bassett, head of global consumer insights at US food group General Mills, goes further. Bassett says the perception among some marketers that the brand choices of Baby Boomers are fixed is "just not true". Rather, Bassett says Baby Boomers should be viewed "as people of ambition on a journey of rediscovery".

One of the General Mills products Bassett believes has been most successful at marketing to older consumers in the US is cereal brand Cheerios. "When you look at Cheerios, this is a brand that has been engineered to lower consumers' cholesterol. We have a dedicated message to this target about the cholesterol-lowering benefits of Cheerios and the way we do that is to celebrate the fact that it helps with active life. So, it is not to stave off the end of life. It is to liberate you to do more of what you love."

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