Thinking Heart Health? Focus on the Over-50s Crowd

Kashi, the natural foods breakfast cereal brand owned by Kellogg, has released new consumer research (conducted jointly with that found that of 5,000 respondents surveyed, although 60% were concerned about heart health, 55% of this group were over the age of 55.

“It’s a finding,” says nutrition industry expert Julian Mellentin, director of New Nutrition Business, the leading international analysts of health and nutrition trends, “that ties up with the experience of every heart health-focused brand – that the only consumer group who are really motivated by messages about heart health, cholesterol-lowering, blood pressure and the like are people over 50, and particularly over 55.

“No company should even think of marketing heart health-specific products to younger consumers,” he continues. “Any brand that tries to convert younger consumers to heart health is facing a huge investment that most likely won’t get results. The strategy with the least risk and the highest return will be to talk only to over-50s.”

“Anyone who has a product that appeals to this older age group can count themselves lucky; and if you haven’t got such a product, you should be developing one,” says Mellentin.

“As a result of the immediacy and relevance of the need, older buyers of heart-health products become very loyal consumers for effective, science-based heart health brands and usually have very high repeat purchase rates – our research at New Nutrition Business has found 80% or more repeat purchase rates, compared with 25%-35% for a typical everyday food brand. Their willingness to pay premium prices also makes them a very valuable consumer group.”

Younger consumers just not interested
In its press release about its consumer research Kashi said: “The survey found…49% of respondents 55 years old and over always looking for foods that support heart health compared to 32% who are under the age of 55.” It continues: “These figures showed us that younger generations…are not proactively looking for heart-healthy foods”.

The reason they are not looking, New Nutrition Business research finds, is that the heart health benefit is simply seen as not relevant by younger consumers – and they won’t find it relevant until they hit 50.

“It’s really only from the age of 50 that people become aware that they need to monitor their blood pressure, cholesterol-levels and so on,” says Mellentin. “They see heart health becoming a concern for parents and friends, they are aware that it’s an age-related issue and so heart health takes on an immediacy that it didn’t have before. When you are 30 you still feel indestructible. The chances of you even thinking of buying a heart health product at that age are close to zero, but by 50 it’s a different story.”

Consider the following:

• “Cholesterol reduction and being motivated to do something about it is really something that comes onto your radar after the age of 40-45,” Esther van Onselen, marketing manager for Benecol Europe at McNeil, told New Nutrition Business. Benecol is the world’s biggest cholesterol-lowering brand. She added: “Our spreads are consumed predominantly by people over 60. Our yoghurt drinks got people who were a bit younger, around 50-55.”
• MiniCol, a cholesterol-lowering cheese marketed by Swiss dairy Emmi, also has the highest proportion of its consumers in the 55-64 age group, with the second-biggest group aged 65-74. MiniCol has a repeat purchase rate of 86%.
• Sirco juice communicates that it helps “maintain a healthy blood flow and benefits circulation”; this is one of the few health claims approved by European regulators. In test-marketing Sirco found that its consumers were overwhelmingly in their 60s and 70s and formed a loyal hard-core with a high repeat purchase pattern. Sirco’s technology is yet to be rolled out in consumer products in most markets, but no company could hope to launch a brand based on Sirco and have any hope of success unless it focused very specifically on the older consumer.

A promising market
Demographic change means that the target consumer group is growing rapidly, everywhere. For example:

• Of Europe’s 500 million people 20% are over the age of 65 and the average age of the population is 41. By 2030 30% will be over the age of 65. The age group 55-64 outnumbers the age group 15-24.
• Of America’s 300 million people 25% are over the age of 55.
• Asia is also experiencing the fast emergence of the same trend – already 20% of the population of Asia is over 50, with the over-50s forecast to be 40% of the population by 2030. In China and Hong Kong already 30% of the population are over 50, the same percentage as Australia and Taiwan.

Propelled by ageing populations, heart-healthy food sales are growing:

• In Italy, where 20% of the population is already over the age of 65, Danone’s Danacol cholesterol-lowering brand, which is based on plant sterols, earned €72.7 million ($106 million) in retail sales in 2009, a 28.8% increase (IRI data). For a brand that sells at a 100%+ premium, to achieve this growth even while the Italian economy contracted by 6% is quite some achievement.
• In the UK, where 27% of the population is over 50, the Benecol cholesterol-lowering drink – the most expensive dairy product in the UK supermarket – actually increased its sales in 2009 by 18.8% to £39.2 million ($61 million/€44.6 million).

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