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  • Tausif Mulla

Health and beauty products are evolving to meet the needs of older consumers

As time goes by, life expectancy is increasing. Aging populations are a result of longer lifespans and fewer births.

As of 2018, older people (over 65s) outnumbered younger ones (under 5) worldwide for the first time. In recent years, the population has been trending in this direction, but the trend has accelerated recently due to economic uncertainty caused by COVID-19. According to the United Nations, more than 20% of people will be over the age of 65 in 44 countries by 2030. This was already the case in 15 countries by 2020. This is a dramatic shift from the current status quo where many countries have populations that are aging quickly due to their low birth rates and high life expectancies.

Keeping healthy in later life is becoming more important as populations age. This need has been spotlighted by the harm the pandemic has caused to older populations.

Older consumers driving demand

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Brands are taking note

With a growing aging population and medical advances, the healthcare industry is a booming market. In an effort to meet the growing needs of this market segment, many companies are launching health-related products. Additionally, firms today are shifting their focus from designing products that help people recover from injury (as in a hospital setting) to designing products aimed at preventing illness before it occurs.

For instance, a new whey protein drink from Danone is intended to aid muscles, joints, and bones. Similarly, Nestle launched a powdered milk drink intended to promote mobility in aging people. The Reckitt-Benckiser Group, makers of infant formula Enfamil, has released a milk drink aimed at boosting old people's immune systems. Covid-19 concerns have led to a growing Chinese market for such products valued at almost $700 million.

Investing in research is a key part of these companies' product development. As part of its research into nutrition and cognition, Danone has set up a healthy-aging unit and Nestle devotes 20% of its Health Science research budget to the study of aging.

Food companies are not the only ones looking to appeal to an aging population. The Swedish furniture giant, IKEA, now offers chairs, footstools, and kitchen products that are designed for people with lower mobility and strength. Similarly, Procter & Gamble and Gillette Treo both provide safety razors as well as other grooming tools designed for elderly patients.

Health and beauty go hand in hand

While the baby boomer generation is retiring and shifting to a more leisurely lifestyle, many are also experiencing significant cognitive and mobility losses. As a result, companies like Estee Lauder and L'Oreal Paris have been developing products that address both these issues while still catering to consumers that prefer to age gracefully.

Consumers over the age of 65 tend to spend more, which makes them an attractive demographic. For instance, compared to younger women, older women in France spend an average of $223 on cosmetics per year, as opposed to $120 spent by younger women (Source: WSJ). Increasingly, companies are offering anti-aging products to a younger audience in addition to the elderly, since many younger people are looking to prevent the effects of aging before they become old. A large segment of the market is concentrated in China.

In its effort to market a lotion that reverses the signs of aging, Colgate in China used celebrity bloggers and social media apps to reach young people. Moreover, Colgate reported, 80% of its Miracle Repair buyers in China were younger than 30.

Don't label older consumers as old

Aging is a natural process of life. It is something that affects every single person, no matter what the age bracket is. We are all getting older at some point in our lives, but one thing that has to be clear when it comes to this process is the fact that brands should stop labeling people as old.

In recent times, businesses have become hesitant to market their products specifically to the elderly. In IKEA, products are labeled specifically for people with different abilities, rather than for older people. Rather than being differentiated as 'older,' the company wants older consumers to perceive their features as natural parts of product design.

Final thoughts

Older generations are responsible for the recent surge in consumption. The latest census data shows that they make up more than one in five consumers in the United States. However, they are not simply spending money on products made by other older people but buying goods and services from businesses catering to their needs.

The baby boomer generation is officially the largest living population segment in America yet they are also among the most ignored when it comes to marketing. That’s because marketers have always assumed that older consumers are set in their ways with limited disposable income, which is why they don't spend much time trying to understand them or figure out how to market to them effectively.

But times have changed and so has this generation of retirees.

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