The concept of “aging gracefully” has taken on a new meaning in the past decade; perhaps the phrase should be changed to “aging actively.” The Baby Boomer generation, or those generally defined as born between 1946 and 1964, refuse to slow down and are very much still on the move. There are an estimated 78 million Baby Boomers in the United States and according to Nielsen, Baby Boomer households account for nearly $230 billion in sales of consumer packaged goods products. So the Baby Boomers’ sizeable purchasing power, combined with their ongoing active lifestyles makes this consumer segment an attractive market for functional beverage makers.
“Boomers are definitely a growing segment, and they’re a huge part of the market, so companies are developing products to capture that audience,” notes Heather Biehl, manager, Health Ingredient Technology and Solutions (H.I.T.S.), at ingredient supplier Wild Flavors. Older adults are seeking out functional ingredients that improve overall health, fight the effects of aging and improve quality of life.
“Some of the biggest platform areas that we’re seeing would be joint health, heart health, immunity, beauty or anti-aging, cognitive health and digestive health,” Biehl says. “Boomers don’t want to admit that they are getting old, so they’re looking for any product to help keep them active.”
Biehl also notes that older adults are educated and market savvy and are looking for products that contain ingredients with proven health benefits.
Scientists recognized the need for functional beverages targeted to specific health needs that concerned older adults and athletes alike. Back in 2006, Hydro One Beverages developed its Bode line of beverages incorporating nutrients that support healthy joints, a strong cardiovascular system and memory function.
“This line of unique beverages was developed to help support individuals in the management and prevention of conditions such as osteoarthritis and cardiovascular disease while also still having a great taste, and being all natural and low calorie,” Sammy Nasrollahi, CEO of Hydro One, says. A joint health variety comes in two flavors, Hibiscus and Citrus Mangosteen, and each contains a day’s supply of glucosamine (1,500 milligrams) and chondroitin (1,200 mg), two ingredients scientifically supported to help maintain joint flexibility.
Elations, a juice-based line of joint health beverages, also offers the same levels of glucosamine and chondroitin, which is the same daily dose of a joint supplement pill, in flavors cranberry apple, raspberry white grape and black cherry with only 30 calories per bottle.
While most sources of glucosamine are derived from shellfish, Cargill developed a branded form of the ingredient, Regenasure glucosamine, and it’s the only vegetarian-sourced glucosamine produced in the U.S. with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Generally Recognized as Safe status.
“While bone and joint health are definitely an area that this age group is concerned with, the joint health market is a little stagnant,” Biehl says. “There hasn’t been a lot of new ingredient innovation.”
Cardiovascular health is obviously an important health issue among this demographic and medical research has supported health claims behind several ingredients, such as plant sterols and omega 3 fatty acids, to help support a healthy heart. Plant sterols are recognized by the U.S. FDA for cholesterol-lowering attributes. Due to growing consumer awareness about plant sterols, several ingredient companies now offer branded forms of the ingredient to help beverage developers differentiate their products. Cargill’s Corowise plant sterols can be found in Minute Maid Premium Heart Wise and Active Lifestyles, a Kroger in-house brand of cholesterol reducing, fat-free milk.
Cognis offers its Heart Choice line of plant sterols, which Hydro One Beverages uses in its Bode açai blueberry heart health beverage to deliver proven cardiovascular health nutrients.
Mind and Body
As an example of the potential of this consumer segment, HealthSpan Solutions LLC developed BeneVia, a line of drinks developed by experts in healthcare, nutrition and aging and formulated with ingredients to help consumers stay healthy as they age. The line includes four varieties targeted to specific health concerns—Strength & Energy, Memory & Focus, Heart Health and Immune Protect. The Memory and Focus variety contains Omega 3/DHA, choline and lutein, ingredients that research has shown support healthy brain function.
The Bode line also targets cognitive health with its passion fruit mango Memory drink that contains gingko biloba and D-ribose.
Beverage marketers also have developed products for this consumer segment that target overall health and wellbeing, such as Nestlé’s Boost drinks. Along with a high amount of nutrition, Boost is packaged in a grip-friendly bottle with an easy-open cap that caters to older adults. Boost High Protein boasts 15 grams of high-quality protein, 26 vitamins and minerals, calcium and vitamin D for bone health and antioxidants.
The national drug store chain Walgreens launched its own private label functional orange juice, A Healthy Start To Your Day vitamin-enriched orange juice with vitamins A, B, C, D and E and calcium. According to Biehl, many Baby Boomer-focused products are either dairy- or juice-based, as those products tend to have a natural “health halo” as dairy already has calcium. Also, juice and dairy appeal to older adults who are more likely to gravitate toward those products rather than energy drinks or soft drinks.
And, technology has improved to make it possible to incorporate ingredients previously used in supplement pill form into ready-to-drink beverages.
“We spend a lot of time here on technology to get these ingredients into beverages—whether it’s oil soluble. And we can convert those over with emulsion technology. Or maybe there are some off tastes that we need to apply taste masking to. We can also extract and isolate certain compounds that leave behind the off tastes, so the technology is definitely there now to be able to add these things to beverages,” Biehl says.
Ingredients that can boost immunity and contribute to maintaining overall good health are often incorporated into functional beverages targeted to older adults. Wild developed a proprietary milk peptide ingredient, Immunel, that is clinically tested to increase the number and vigor of immune cells that respond to bacteria. Biehl says the ingredient can be incorporated easily into beverages with no impact on taste, color or texture.
Baby Boomers also are interested in looking healthy and young as well as physically feeling healthy, and so-called “beauty beverages” increasingly have become popular. With emerging skin health science, ingredient suppliers have developed ways to formulate functional beverages with ingredients like resveratrol, vitamin E and Coenzyme Q10 that are believed to enhance skin health. DSM offers its Beauty Blends AgeWell premix with a number of ingredients thought to support collagen and elastin production as well as patented eye health ingredients FloraGlo lutein and Optisharp zeaxanthin.