In the 1960s, "Hell no, we won't go!" was the chant heard at anti-Vietnam war rallies. That same demographic group has the same spirit of rebelliousness today except now it means aging baby boomers aren't going into retirement without a fight.
With purchasing power of $2.1 trillion and 79 million strong -- the largest age cohort in history -- most baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) believe the foods and beverages they consume can translate to improved health, more energy, disease prevention, a youthful appearance and productive, happier lives. Challenging traditional ideas of aging, boomers are at the leading edge of many important health and wellness trends.
They actively seek foods that prevent cancer, diabetes, and heart disease; immunity-boosting foods; and ingredients that maintain eye and joint health, combat stress, depression, sleeplessness and memory loss, particularly the dreaded Alzheimer's disease -- boomers don't like to lose control.
"There is no question baby boomers are redefining the meaning of getting older," says Kevin Havelock, president of Unilever USA (www.unileverusa.com), Englewood Cliffs, N.J., in discussing results from the company's new "Trip Management Study." "With their focus on health and well-being, they want to continue maintaining the vitality they now enjoy. As boomers age, retailers who know how to help them stay vibrant and connected to what they care for most in life will be the winners."
The study, along with data provided by ACNielsen, was unveiled at the Food Marketing Institute's annual conference. Since boomers make 58 percent of all shopping trips, the report examines their trip frequency and spending, channels they prefer, their most common needs, how they define value for the money and how their shopping will change during the next decade.
Concerned about your cholesterol and general heart health? Breakfast is a good place to start. Have a bowl of Kellogg's Smart Start Healthy Heart cereal (helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol) for breakfast. Or some old-fashioned oatmeal, which won the FDA's first food-specific health claim ("Soluble fiber from oatmeal, as part of a low saturated fat, low cholesterol diet, may reduce the risk of heart disease"), a fact proudly trumpeted on Quaker Oatmeal packages.
On your toast (whole grain, of course) spread some McNeil Nutritional's Benecol Spreads (natural plant sterol esters that lower cholesterol levels); or Unilever's I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Mediterranean Blend (made with olive oil, an excellent source of omega-3 for heart and vascular health).
Wash it all down with Coca-Cola's recently introduced three Minute Maid Enhanced Juices: Heart Wise (with plant sterols to reduce cholesterol), Active (with 750mg of glucosamine hydrochloride) and Multi-Vitamin (a "good source" of 16 vitamins and minerals). PepsiCo's Tropicana Pure Premium Antioxidant Advantage Orange Juice is an excellent source of antioxidant vitamins C and E and selenium for a healthy immune system; or Tropicana Pure Premium Calcium + Vitamin D has as much calcium as a glass of milk for bone health.
Or maybe you'd rather have yogurt. Dannon Activia low-fat yogurt contains a natural probiotic culture that helps regulate the digestive system. General Mills' Yoplait Nouriche smoothies contain 20 vitamins and minerals including protein for muscle strength.
Who needs pills?
A long-time observer of boomer behavior, who formerly served as director of nutrition education at Quaker Oats Co., and director of global nutrition at McDonald's Corp., Cathy Kapica says they are absolutely changing their habits to incorporate healthier foods. "For boomers, food serves as fuel, medicine, prevention and restoration," says Kapica, now vice president of global health and wellness in the Chicago office of worldwide advertising agency Ketchum Inc. (www.ketchum.com).
"The meaning of healthy is being redefined. The emphasis will shift from 'bad' nutrients (fat, salt, sugar) to quality calories. Quality calories encompass the positive nutrients that are present (such as good carbs, good fat, antioxidants), as well as the functional benefits provided, such as satiety."
And she adds, "Health redefined also will see a shift in concern away from just the end product to the entire supply chain, including processes involved and their ethical implications. Agricultural practices, minimal processing, treatment of suppliers and employees all will have an impact on the perceived health implications of a product."
What looming health problems are boomers hoping to prevent with food and nutrition? "The traditional diseases of aging -- heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer -- will continue to be relevant to boomers. Increasingly, they recognize the importance of prevention," Kapica continues.
"Boomers also consider themselves to still be young, so factors that contribute to mental and physical acuity will be top of mind. Foods and beverages that promote cognitive function and physical mobility, such as joint health, will gain traction," she says. "From an ingredient perspective, this implies that omega-3s will grow in importance (since emerging evidence suggests that it positively impacts several concerns, including heart health, cognition, joint health), as well as protein and protein components that promise retention of muscle mass and control of blood pressure. And the immune enhancing properties of food components, such as probiotics, will remain important. Food safety concern will manifest itself in increasing interest in organic and kosher."