Beverage R&D: Banking on boomers
The baby boom generation has always prided itself on breaking the rules, so not surprisingly, there are few set-in-stone standards for boomer-related products. But as this generation gets older, it is more interested in fortified products designed to help them live longer, more active lives, and industry experts have a few tips for developing those products.
According to the International Food Information Council’s 2008 Food & Health Survey, 60 percent of Americans believe that foods and beverages can provide specific health benefits, and among the subgroups most likely to consume specific products for a health benefit are those 55 to 64 years old. Improving heart health topped the list of benefits consumers most believe can be affected by products, followed by improving energy or stamina, maintaining overall health and wellness, and improving digestive health.
“Baby boomers want to stay as healthy and active as possible and are the generation most likely to embrace the idea of preventative medicine,” says Suzanne McNeary, president of NutraGenesis, Brattleboro, Vt. “They are also most likely to associate and make the connection between their diet and good health, and seek out food and beverage products that will enhance and protect their good health.”
“As life expectancy continues to grow, consumers’ concerns about the quality of life increase as well,” adds Heather Biehl, senior scientist for Wild Flavors’ H.I.T.S. (Health Ingredients & Technology Solutions). “People want to feel and look as good as they did in their 30s.”
Some of the biggest concerns to baby boomers are cardiovascular health; brain health, or keeping the mind sharp; bone and joint health; a strong immune system; and ingredients that help maintain beauty from within, she says. Wild has developed a number of ingredients in those areas, including its MaxImmune blend, which is designed to reduce the severity of colds; Coenzyme Q10, which can be beneficial to brain and heart health, and may also have cosmetic benefits for those beauty-from-within requests. Lutein and lycopene, too, can help maintain appearance, Biehl says.
Stress consistently ranks near the top of health concerns for all demographics, McNeary says, citing this as a potential product development area, but one that is “definitely in its infancy.”
NutraGenesis offers Essentra, a GRAS-affirmed ingredient derived from the Ashwagandha herb that is designed to help reduce stress, enhance mood, increase energy and reduce inflammation. The company also features GRAS-affirmed OptiNutrin for immune system support, and Sensara for skin enhancement and protection.
Sustained energy is another potential area for baby boomers, but in a very different way than current energy drink products.
“Beverages that provide healthy, sustained energy rather than the over-stimulating quick crash experience so often associated with energy drinks is going to be the next wave,” McNeary says. “Boomers want enhanced energy but they don’t relate to the teen and twentysomething drinks as they do not meet their needs.”
Colleen Zammer, director of sales for FutureCeuticals, Momence, Ill., says better overall nutrition is just as important for energy as specific nutrients.
“I think the older realm is looking for something that’s more sustainable â€” not peaks, but makes you feel like you can just perform on a regular basis without getting tired,” she says. “Some of that is just about more complete nutrition and making sure you get a good balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates for your body to run on, making sure you get enough micronutrients too, so that your body is fueled and alert instead of just having a caffeine spike.”
Beverage and food products actually are an ideal way to promote energy because many micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals are not bioavailable without protein, carbohydrates and fats, and vice versa, says Ram Chaudhari, senior executive vice president at Fortitech, Schenectady, N.Y., which develops custom premixes of nutritional ingredients.
“You have to have those macronutrients â€” fat, protein, carbohydrates â€” in order to utilize some of those supplements,” he says.
Antioxidants are popular for staving off a number of possible ailments, and are available from several sources. “Antioxidants capture and neutralize free radicals and other pro-oxidants that can cause tissue and cell damage,” Wild’s Biehl says. “This is very important in maintaining overall health and vitality.”
The polyphenols in blue and red fruits, including blueberries, are well known for their antioxidant value, as are the carotenoids in yellow and orange vegetables such as carrots, Zammer says. Both are thought to be beneficial to eye health as well as heart health and mental acuity.
In addition, resveratrol, one of the beneficial compounds in red wine, is thought to slow the aging process. “The challenge with that particular compound is its solubility in anything other than alcohol,” Zammer says. “We are working toward an actual ingredient that contains a substantial amount of available resveratrol to help with the anti-aging effect.”
Sulfur-based compounds such as those found in green vegetables also are proving important to the immune system by stimulating the body’s built-in antioxidant system, she says.
“A lot of sulfur-based antioxidants actually help your body’s internal system function better and defend itself against some of these oxidative stresses like smog and cigarette smoke,” she says. FutureCeuticals offers SproutGarden blends, a line of ingredients based on plant sprouts, which Zammer says contain the highest nutrient content per gram that a plant will have during its life cycle.
According to Fleishman-Hillard’s FH Boom marketing initiative, sports injuries are second only to the common cold as the reason most people visit the doctor, and baby boomers are the demographic most likely to make this type of visit. Add to that the normal joint pain and stiffness related to aging, and joint health emerges as an important baby boomer concern.
“An active lifestyle, participation in impact sports and aging can all wear down joint cartilage, which is a major cause of joint pain and stiffness,” says Brent Rogers, technical services manager for Cargill Corn Milling North America, which offers Regenasure, a GRAS-affirmed glucosamine ingredient made from a vegetarian source.
“Glucosamine is a key building block of joints and is used by millions of people to promote mobility and joint health,” he says. Regenasure can be used in beverages such as sports drinks, enhanced waters and ready-to-drink tea. According to Rogers, the ingredient allows product manufacturers to create joint health products under a food label rather than a supplement label. In addition, its vegetarian source makes allergen-free, kosher and halal labels possible.
FutureCeuticals has added borate to the bone health discussion, with FruitexB, a form of Calcium-Fructo-Borate. The company says the ingredient is a nature-identical molecule to plant sources of boron, which it says can assist in maintaining bone mass and bone and joint comfort.
In addition to joint health, the emerging category of “gut health” is becoming important to boomers. Soluble fiber, probiotics and prebiotics all are making their way into beverages.
Cargill offers Oliggo-Fiber inulin, a prebiotic ingredient that can be incorporated into beverages.
“Research indicates that inulin may enhance dietary calcium absorption, particularly among preteens and postmenopausal women,” says Pam Stauffer, global marketing programs and communications manager at Cargill Health & Nutrition. “Inulin also is recognized as a prebiotic ingredient that supports the natural, healthful bacteria in the lower-GI tract.”
Fiber can be a beneficial ingredient in heart health products, as can ingredients specifically designed for cholesterol-reduction. Cargill’s CoroWise plant sterols were created to lower LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol, and can be used with a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved health claim. The company’s Barliv barley beta fiber is a reduced molecular weight beta-glucan soluble fiber intended to reduce cholesterol.
FutureCeuticals, too, is focusing on cholesterol reduction with its Nutrim and Calorie Control Trim ingredients. The products are 10 and 20 percent oat beta-glucan ingredients that can be used with an FDA-approved health claim for cholesterol reduction. The company also offers BarleyTrim, with 15 percent beta- glucan from barley.
Zammer says consumers already are familiar with many of the benefits of oat fiber, making the marketing task easier. “You can translate that knowledge of oats and heart health into beverages from maybe less convenient foods like cereal and oatmeal,” she says.
With all of the focus on enhancements, it’s easy to forget that most people consume beverages for refreshment. Bolder flavors are worth exploring for boomer-targeted products, says Derek Elefson, North American marketing manager, beverages, for Givaudan, Cincinnati.
“Many scientists in the flavor industry have been following the developments of taste studies in the aging population, which have revealed that as people age, their taste buds become less sensitive to certain tastes,” he says. “As a result, we’ve seen further exploration around bolder and more intense flavors, as well as with more sensate flavors, such as with heating and cooling.”
Flavors also can help create an overall impression of health and wellness, Elefson points out. “Healthy lifestyle beverages with a focus on ingredients and flavors that boomers prefer may actually help consumers feel better about themselves,” he says.
Flavors most often perceived as healthy include tea, citrus, berry and orchard fruits. Givaudan has developed beverage concepts around the four key areas that it has determined boomers to be most interested in: defense/immunity, calm/relaxation, fit/slimming and beauty/spa.
FutureCeuticals’ Zammer adds that colors also should be considered. “It’s not going to be the electric blues and oranges,” she says. “Once you’ve reached that stage of life, your need to be completely different and out there is over and done with ... You just want something that looks appealing and tastes appealing.”
One thing beverages must have if they have any hope of appealing to baby boomers is scientific backing, says Carol Orsborn, co-chair of Fleishman-Hillard’s FH Boom. “[Boomers] want the depth of knowledge, they want the science behind it,” she says. “So whatever your product is, you ought to have a Web site that has the scientific background for any of your claims or ingredients.”
That’s not to say that products should be overly medicinal or clinical, she says. Part of the boomer appeal is the ability to achieve a health benefit without actual medicine. “Anything that promises the same benefits of traditional medicine without needing traditional medicine,” Orsborn says. “If a boomer can get something ‘organically’ through a product they’re eating or drinking, they would tend to prefer that over a medicine.”
Fortitech’s Chaudhari agrees: “People are accepting that prevention is better than a cure so they want to take full charge of their own activities and health,” he says.
But he warns both consumers and product-makers not to overdo it. “Moderation is the key with all of these nutrients,” he says. “People want to add more because they think that is going to do more good. Not so. Because if you have a moderate amount, your body has a better opportunity to use it efficiently rather than overloading.”
Orsborn suggests the most popular boomer products will impart a “sense of authenticity and full disclosure. The boomer wants to be able to make a wise decision.” BI