Late last year, BENEO shared a study on the ‘positive’ ageing trend among consumers. The research, conducted by HealthFocus International, includes an analysis of the health-conscious 50+ age range. As the desire to be in the best of health at every life stage is the common goal, consumers also believe that choosing healthy food and drink alternatives will help keep them active as they grow old. FoodPacific Manufacturing Journal asked Christian Philippsen, Managing Director, Asia-Pacific, BENEO, to share his thoughts about the survey.
What can you say about the consumer trend towards ‘positive ageing’?
The pandemic has been a significant contributor to the increased focus on health and nutrition. It has elevated our emphasis on maintaining health through a proper diet, and has also given rise to the healthy ageing trend, which is further driven by a rapidly ageing population.
The World Health Organisation estimates that the number of people aged 60 years will double to 2 billion by 2050[i]. In Asia, one in four will be 60 years old and above. This has led to a shift in health focus — from chronic and acute conditions to lifestyle and ageing — and prevention has become key.
Insights from BENEO’s latest survey support this observation, showing that consumers are now more focused than ever on ‘positive’ ageing and growing healthily into their golden years. And nutrition plays a significant part in achieving this. In fact, findings revealed that 74% of consumers over 50 are making a conscious effort to eat a healthy diet while 65% are seeking healthier indulgent food and drink options.
The significance of health and nutrition has never been greater, and consumers are actively seeking to imbue this into their everyday routines.
Christian Philippsen, Managing Director, Asia-Pacific, BENEO
What does the ‘positive ageing’ trend mean for food manufacturers and what opportunities does this create in the market?
With positive ageing rising to the top of mind for consumers, this presents food manufacturers with a thriving market of opportunities. Consumers want to be able to continue with their normal activities for as long as possible, with “maintaining the ability to continue with my normal activities as I age” now being the number one concern across the globe. Nutrition increasingly plays a significant part in achieving this[ii]
Our survey shows that there is unabated demand for healthier options, where offering “better nutrition” is one of the top influencing factors for 68% of consumers trying a new brand. This means that food and drink manufacturers have a great opportunity to improve the nutrition of their products, without compromising on taste.
There is also an emphasis on specific health benefits such as stronger bones, better digestion, and healthier blood sugar levels. Our findings revealed that half of over-50s choose food and drink products that promote stronger bones and better digestive health, while 48% look for products to help them maintain healthy blood glucose levels. This represents a chance for food manufacturers to incorporate ingredients that promote these health benefits into their existing catalogue. By catering to consumers’ health ambitions and enabling them to achieve their nutritional targets, food manufacturers can address current market needs and support the healthy ageing agenda.
What are the nutritional and technical benefits of functional ingredients that food manufacturers can incorporate to contribute to the healthy ageing agenda?
Functional ingredients can provide a multitude of nutritional benefits, such as promoting proper blood sugar management and digestive health, that are essential to the healthy ageing agenda. They also offer technical advantages that allow manufacturers to easily tailor their products according to consumer preferences, while making it simple for them to incorporate into their production processes as well.
Supporting the immune system is a key part of healthier ageing. As well as sustaining the gut microbiome with gut-friendly foods containing prebiotics, a key recommendation to supporting immunity is to manage blood glucose levels. Traditionally, high blood glucose is linked to those with pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes, however, blood glucose levels also influence the innate immune system. Nutrition-wise, functional ingredients like Palatinose™ and prebiotic chicory root fibres contribute to positive ageing by promoting healthy blood glucose levels and digestive health, which in turn boost our immune system against a higher risk of infections as we age.
Palatinose™ is a slow-release functional carbohydrate that is naturally derived from sugar beet. It can help to deliver a lower rise in blood glucose, while still providing full carbohydrate energy in a more balanced and sustained manner. Its slow uptake and low glycaemic profile make it an ideal ingredient to help maintain healthy blood sugar levels in the long-term.
In the technical department, Palatinose™ also shines with its low hygroscopicity, which means that it does not easily form lumps in powder form. This makes it perfect for powdered drinks and blends. Its good solubility also allows it to be easily added to liquid products.
This functional carbohydrate also provides a mild, natural sweetness without any aftertaste. To make it even easier for food manufacturers, Palatinose™ can be readily combined with other sweeteners to achieve a tailored sweetness profile suited to consumers’ preferences. Food manufacturers can thus reformulate their products without compromising on taste and texture, while still offering the benefits of a low-glycaemic diet that contributes to positive ageing.
Another functional ingredient that also promotes the healthy ageing agenda is chicory root fibre, such as BENEO’s Orafti® Inulin and Oligofructose. They contribute to a low glycaemic diet by replacing available carbohydrates and enriching the food with dietary fibre. Thus, they support effective blood sugar management.
Orafti® Inulin and Oligofructose are the only plant-based proven prebiotics in the market, and specifically target beneficial bifidobacterial in our gut — where 70% of our immune system lies — to improve the balance of our intestinal flora and fortify our digestive health. Research has shown that microbiota-support using gut-friendly foods not only promotes a person’s digestive health but can also improve their frailty index[iii] and keep our inner defence system in good shape.
A long-term study has also proven that Oligofructose-enriched Inulin Orafti® Synergy1 increases calcium absorption, which translates into tangible improvements in bone health such as a marked increase in bone mineral density[iv]. This can potentially prevent osteoporosis and improve conditions of patients suffering from the condition, further addressing the existing consumer demand for products that advocate stronger bones.
The market is now well-poised for manufacturers to leverage. With the abundant nutritional and technical benefits offered by functional ingredients available, food manufacturers can already start adapting their products to meet the healthy ageing needs of consumers. There is no better time than now.
[i] A decade of action for healthy ageing ad healthier working lives – Safety and health at work – EU-OSHA (Europa.eu) Healthy Ageing – A challenge for Europe.pdf
[ii] FMCG Gurus COVID-19 global surveys Feb 21
[iii] Buigues C, Fernández-Garrido J, Pruimboom L, Hoogland AJ, Navarro-Martínez R, Martínez-Martínez M, Verdejo Y, Mascarós MC, Peris C, Cauli O. Effect of a Prebiotic Formulation on Frailty Syndrome: A Randomized, Double-Blind Clinical Trial. Int J Mol Sci. 2016 Jun 14;17(6):932. doi: 10.3390/ijms17060932. PMID: 27314331; PMCID: PMC4926465.
[iv] Abrams S.A., Griffin I.J., Hawthorne K.M., Liang L., Gunn S.K., Darlington G., Ellis K.J. (2005). A combination of prebiotic short- and long-chain fructans enhances calcium absorption and bone mineralization in young adolescents. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 82, 471-476.
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