Baby Boomer Nutrition High Priority for Food Processors

Nutrition has become baby boomers’ antidote for most of the negative effects of aging.

By Kantha Shelke, Ph.D., Contributing Editor

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In fact, typing the words “baby boomer” into the search bar at www.FoodProcessing.com will get you 57 stories, ranging from feature articles to market research to news items.

Baby boomers are regarded as an important generation for food and beverage marketers, partly because of their needs and partly because they tend to have high disposable incomes. Nutrition has a pivotal role in the health and anti-aging efforts of baby boomers. In fact, nutrition is increasingly a popular boomer antidote to growing old.

Anti-aging and vitality are enduring themes among baby boomers. Boomers are using nutrition to take the sting out of age-related complaints including pain, memory loss, fatigue, indigestion and declining vision (for a discussion of the food and beverage role in eye health).

Functional foods and beverages are becoming popular solutions to heart health, diabetes, hypertension, chronic pain and joint issues – chronic ailments plaguing boomers.

Food processors take note: According to Metlife Mature Market Institute (www.maturemarketinstitute.com), Hartford, Conn., one out of every four Americans is a boomer, and they are investing a growing proportion of their $2 trillion in expenditures in 2007 on foods and beverages that meet their desire for youth and vitality.

A healthy ticker

Heart health is one of the greatest concerns for boomers, especially following the questionable American diet of the past few decades. A number of food ingredients, both naturally occurring and easily added, are addressing this concern.

Mars Inc. set the world on its ear in 2006 when it started marketing chocolate as a heart-health food. Its launch of the CocoaVia brand, based on company research into cocoa flavanols, created a rage that delighted boomers with sweet tooths and has been copied by other chocolate companies the world over.

“Dark chocolate contains high levels of antioxidant flavanols,” says Renee Kopkowski, director of corporate communications for Mars Snackfood US (www.mars.com), Hackettstown, N.J. Mars pioneered cocoa flavanol scientific research for more than 15 years in partnership with some of the world's most respected universities and institutions, including Harvard University and the University of California-Davis. As a result, Mars holds more than 30 patents related to flavanols, including a process to retain much of these compounds during processing of the cocoa.

In addition, the company established Mars Botanical last year as a new scientific division of Mars Inc. to market cocoa flavanols.

“Coronary heart disease and cholesterol management are key issues for boomers,” says Pam Stauffer, global marketing programs and communications manager at Cargill Inc. (www.cargill.com), Wayzata, Minn. “Clinical studies support the cholesterol lowering power of phytosterols – plant-derived sterols and stanols,” says Stauffer.

Cargill has a list of ingredients for heart health: CoroWise plant sterols for cholesterol reduction, Barliv barley beta glucan and Leci PC phosphatidylcholine. And for other boomer ailments: Leci PS phosphatidylserine for brain health and, for joint health, Arthred Hydrolyzed collagen and Regenasure glucosamine.

Omega-3 fatty acids are key nutrients essential for heart health. The anti-inflammatory action of long-chain predominantly marine-sourced eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) fatty acids and the shorter-chain plant-derived alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) may be added to a variety of food products through advances in micro-encapsulation and other ingredient coating technologies.

“Omega-3 fatty acids with the right balance of natural vegetable oils are the key to changing our lipid profile” explains Rick Werner, vice president and general manager of Smart Balance (www.smartbalance.com), Boulder, Colo. Its original spread started out with “the perfect blend of polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturated fats,” as determined by researchers at Brandeis University, as a way to improve cholesterol, but the company since has added omega-3s  to improve the health profile.

Smart Balance has branched out into a range of food products, including popcorn, peanut butter and even milk, all aimed at lowering cholesterol. The message and health benefits are hitting home with baby boomers, who are exhibiting a heightened consciousness of their lipid numbers.

Likewise, Unilever (www.unilever.com), Englewood Cliffs, N.J., is taking advantage of the FDA heart-health claim and endorsement from the National Cholesterol Education Program to promote these fat soluble compounds in Promise activ SuperShots. These refrigerated mini-drinks (100ml/3.3-oz.) help consumers remove cholesterol from their system.

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