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Fi Europe 2023

Meeting the needs of baby boomers [Interview]

Article-Meeting the needs of baby boomers [Interview]

© Fi Global Insights Fi Europe 2023 Interview with Mike Hughes
Baby boomers may more often be the target of jokes than fine-tuned marketing, but Mike Hughes of consumer insight company FMCG Gurus shares insights into the dietary habits and preferences of this important consumer segment ahead of Fi Europe.

We are so used to hearing about the intricacies of trends affecting millennials, in particular, that it is easy for brand-owners to ignore the food and drink preferences of older consumers – notably the baby boomers – despite the fact that both disposable income and health-awareness are often higher in this more senior demographic.

Head of research and insight at FMCG Gurus Mike Hughes says: “We know society is ageing across the globe. People are living longer, but not necessarily more healthily. No 90-year-old will have the quality of life of a 20-year-old, but there’s a growing determination among this group to maintain health for as long as possible.

Typically defined as the generation born in the high-birthrate years between World War II and around 1964, baby boomers are often perceived more in terms of stereotypes than reality. As a general rule, they do indeed often feel misunderstood, says Hughes, and do not like to be reminded of their age, but at the same time have a growing awareness of their own health needs – and, in many cases, the resources to do something about it.

The importance of emotional health

For these consumers, cognitive wellbeing can be as important as physical health, often more so than in younger consumers,” he says. Millennials may be more likely to dismiss fatigue, for example, as a function of workload, while older consumers will associate any sense of mental decline with overall health.

There is the emotional health aspect, too,” Hughes explains. “Time becomes a more precious commodity, so a lot of reprioritising goes on.

Favoured ingredient areas typically include omega-3, protein, calcium and other minerals, fibre, and vitamins C and D. “Baby boomers are more likely to go to tried and trusted ingredients such as these rather than, say, botanicals, and may be more reluctant to sample new ingredients,” he says.

At the same time, there are significant opportunities here. “These consumers may think of omega-3 as being ‘good’ and trans fats, for instance, as ‘bad’, without necessarily knowing why,” Hughes points out. “Or they think of probiotics in the context of digestive health without knowing that they can help with wider symptoms, for example in menopause. There may be some preconceptions to overcome in terms of the ingredients that consumers already know.

Functional claims resonate well particularly at breakfast

These openings are also about the active interest baby boomers take in their health and nutrition, as highlighted by FMCG Gurus’ own research. “Older consumers often think they’re in better health than the younger part of the population,” says Hughes. “They often lead the way in seeking out foods with functional claims. The levels of proactivity were especially interesting.

In terms of target food and drink categories, he is clear where the major opportunity lies. “I think it’s the breakfast table,” he says. “Juice, bread, cereal, dairy products, this is the core area where these consumers are likely to be more health-orientated.” These are categories where the fortification of staple products with, for example, vitamins and fibre can be especially attractive.

Other gaps in the over-60s nutrition market might include the impulse category, including bars. “This would be about functional benefits helping to alleviate any sense of guilt: permissible indulgence,” says Hughes.

More insights from FMCG Gurus will be available at the free-to-attend Innovation Hub at Fi Europe, held in Frankfurt, Germany on 28-30 November 2023.