Manufacturers support retailers with validated products targeting Boomers’ specific needs, and educational engagement that speaks to them.
According to U.S. Census numbers, an American turns 50 every seven seconds—that’s more than 12,500 people every day. The AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) estimates that by 2015, those aged 50 and older will represent 45 percent of the U. S. population.
Further, the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) noted that Baby Boomers’ (born between 1946 and 1964) median household income is 55 percent greater than post-Boomers (Generation X, born mid-1960s to early 1980s) and 61 percent more than pre-Boomers (born between 1925 and 1945) . With an average annual disposable income of $24,000, adults 50 and older own 65 percent of the aggregate net worth of all U.S. households, according to a U.S. Government Consumer Expenditure Survey.
Aside from this age group becoming a predominant demographic with more disposable income, the market for the 50 and older category in the natural products industry is booming due to two other factors. “This consumer tends to be in tune with common health concerns for their age group, and they are looking for alternatives to traditional remedies,” said Ashley Watson, media content developer with Vermont-based FoodScience Corporation.
In fact, while multivitamins marketed specifically for the 50 and older demo- graphic is a relatively new segment, in the last three years, there have been several successful introductions. Stacey Gillespie, director of product marketing with New Hampshire-based MegaFood, Cited to SPINS data from the women’s multivitamin category (ending April 13, 2013) : “According to SPINS, the second best-selling multivitamin in the women’s category today is a multivitamin marketed and positioned for women 50 years of age or older. This product continues to experience an average rate of 25 percent in dollar growth, which is more than double the total category growth of 12 percent,” she said, adding that other multivitamins in this segment have also experienced strong growth in total units placed as well as sell through.
While this group is a natural fit for the dietary supplement industry, acquiring their loyalty is a hands-on proposition.
Meeting Their Needs
Common concerns for the 50 and over demographic largely involve longevity and aging, according to Rafael Avila, Manager of research and development with New York-based Nature’s Plus. “This can cover a broad range of ailments, such as osteoporosis, heart disease, vision loss and weight gain—just to name a few. When looking for a supplement, the 50 and over demographic is looking for overall body health and regulation to support a longer, healthier life.”
Donna Noonan, senior vice president of New Jersey-based Mushroom Wisdom, Inc., concurred, but added that remaining active—both mentally and physically—is a core concern for this demographic. “Maintaining mental agility and memory retrieval is important as men and women age, as the concept of dementia is exceedingly frightening, in addition to being able to remain physically mobile,” she said. “Today’s retirees do not want to sit around watching TV and anticipating early bird dinners. Instead, retirement now means ‘play, learn something new, travel, fall in love again.’ As such, the dietary supplement industry is perfectly aligned for members of this age group.”
It’s something that Debra Stark, owner of Debra’s Natural Gourmet, a single store in Concord, MA, has not only seen in her customers, but understands personally. “Our store serves customers in every age group, and among them are feisty seniors. Among our staff, too, we have quite a few seniors,” she said. “Every customer is a unique individual. Every customer is looking for something different, but many, like myself, are concerned about aging well. We want to be able to do the tango in our 90s, and so we’re hedging our bets. Speaking for myself, and for many customers in my age bracket (over 65), we’re taking brain nutrients, resveratrol, alphalipoic acid, B’s, fish oil and much more.”
Steve Swenson,CMO/COO, Sevo Nutraceuticals, Inc. in Massachusetts, cautioned that this demographic is more discerning than most, so retailers must be prepared to give them the product selection they seek with the backing they demand. “The 50 and older consumer is skeptical about grandiose claims that can’t be substantiated,” he said. “They have high disposable incomes and are willing to spend, but they’re looking for proven products.”
“What they want from us are: convenient dosing, outstanding quality of research supporting structure/function claims and recommended doses that reflect the most compelling human research showing specific efficacy in condition improvement,” added Noonan. “It’s quite the tall order, but we—as a company and as an industry— aim to fulfill if not exceed those expectations.”
An Antioxidant Approach
According to Avila, for more than 40 years the 50 and over shopper has been a major part of Nature’s Plus’ formulation consideration. “The difficulty that this group has in absorbing nutrients influenced us to make the most absorbable and bioavailable nutrient products available for purchase right now.”
The company recently launched its new line of AgeLoss supplements, hoping to provide a new understanding of antioxidants and free radicals. Each of the 23 products is tailored to its respective body system. A key ingredient, olive fruit/leaf hydroxytyrosol, is fat soluble and thus capable of functioning in the fatty microenvironments of blood lipids. What’s more, it is more focused against the free radicals of greatest significance—SORAC (anti-superoxide) and HORAC (anti-hydroxyl) activity—according to Avila, adding that analysis by Brunswick Labs reveals that hydroxyty- rosol has a Total ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) activity (the sum of all five classes of antioxidant activity) value of more than 68,500 mole TE/g with 37 percent as SORAC and 35 percent as HORAC.
Avila cited a 2011 European Food Safety Authority Opinion Paper1 that validates the theory that 5 mg of hydroxytyrosol per day offers protection of blood LDL lipids from oxidative damage. “Compared to the roughly 250 mg of vitamin C, purported to act similarly, hydroxytyrosol is clearly more effective.
“The example of olive hydroxytyrosol demonstrates that specialized combinations of antioxidant activities perform better than nutrients with random activities. It shows that we now have the ability to combat the health-robbing effects of these rogue molecules far more effectively than ever before,” Avila continued. “Nature’s Plus’ new AgeLoss products employ this knowledge to customize antioxidant activity and address structure- and function-specific free radicals more effectively than ever before, and represent the future of antioxidant and anti-aging nutrition.”
FoodScience Corporation offers another antioxidant option for the 50 and older demographic, but it has given them an alternative delivery: the drink mix.
The company’s Superior Reds is a high ORAC blend recommended for anyone looking to support brain, heart, liver, immune system health and energy levels*, according to Watson. Meanwhile, FoodScience’s Superior Purples combines 19 nutrient-rich whole fruits and vegetables and extracts. Meanwhile, FoodScience’s Superior Purples combines 19 nutrient-rich whole fruits and vegetables and extracts.
“Some of nature’s most protective foods are darkly colored fruits and vegetables because they contain potent antioxidants, such as phenols, anthocyanins, ellagic acid, proanthocyanidins, bioflavonoids and vitamin C,*” she said. “This mix is set apart by the inclusion of mangosteen, pomegranate, açai and camu camu, as well as the anti-aging nutrients alpha GPC, L-carnosine and folic acid to support mental energy, focus and clarity.*”
Multis With & Without
While MegaFood has been serving the natural products industry since 1973, it hadn’t introduced a 55 and over-specific product until November of 2012, when it introduced its gender-specific whole food multivitamins.
“At the time of our market research in 2011, there was a limited number of gender-specific multivitamins, especially in whole food category for this demo- graphic,” said Gillespie. “Knowing that our current loyal consumer base was also entering into this demographic, we believed it was important to design a multivitamin to meet their specific nutritional needs.”
She explained that the company took into consideration that, in this age demographic, there is a higher likelihood that an individual may also be taking over-the-counter or prescribed medications, which may interact or be contraindicated to take with some nutrients. So when MegaFood formulated its new multivitamins for men and women age 55 and over, it either excluded or limited the inclusion of certain ingredients.
“Men Over 55 excludes select nutrients that are not recommended for men 50 years of age. For instance, new research has identified high levels of calcium in a man’s diet over the age of 50 is correlated to a higher incidence of cancer. Based on this finding, many physicians and natural practitioners are encouraging men to not take calcium sup- plements,” said Gillespie. “Meanwhile, as women age, their risk of developing breast cancer increases tenfold, so for our Women Over 55 we believed it was important to include antioxidant-rich foods such as whole food concentrates of cruciferous vegetables known to target and nourish the cellular health of the breasts.”
Brain health is one of the top health- related concerns of aging populations and has been identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a public health priority, according to Sevo’s Swenson, who explained that his company was developed after licensing the formula for its flagship product, PERCEPTIV, from the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UMass Lowell).
“We emphasize scientifically proven benefits and talk about ingredients in terms of their proven synergy in our formula,” Swenson explained, adding that PERCEPTIVE offers vitamins B12 and E, folic acid, acetyl L-carnitine, N-acetyl cysteine and SAMe (S-adenosyl methio- nine). “The ingredients, delivered via a small tablet, work together to help build neurotransmitters so memory improves. Tablets are familiar to this audience and the small size is important so they are easy to swallow.”
PERCEPTIV has seven clinical studies supporting it, five that have been published. According to Swenson, two studies were funded by the Alzheimer’s Association and will be published after their presentation at the Association’s International Conference [in July]. “[The two studies show] that our formulation holds promise for delaying the decline in cognition, mood and daily function that accompanies the progression of cognitive decline. And these findings support the benefit of addition- al nutritional supplements for cognitive performance.”
Mushroom Wisdom’s cognitive sup- port product is Amyloban 3399, a unique lion’s mane (Hericium eri-naceum) mushroom extract. “Amyloban 3399 contains phytochemicals from the lion’s mane mushroom—hericenones and amyloban—shown through research to support brain structure and function. It has been shown2 to stimulate production of nerve growth factor, a critical Bio-component that helps maintain healthy brain activities,” explained Noonan. “Lion’s mane mushroom’s powerful nutrients cross the blood-brain barrier to help your customers enjoy being mentally fit.”
Further, this past January, Illinois- based Redd Remedies launched its Brain Awakening product, which also offers users the benefits of lion’s mane as well as amla and Magtein, the only form of magnesium that readily crosses the blood brain barrier. According to Founder and CEO Dan Chapman, Brain Awakening “supports short- and long- term memory (for all adult ages), it sup- ports healthy neuron structure and it promotes health cognitive function.”
But Noonan cautioned that not all lion’s mane mushroom supplements contain viable amounts of amyloban and hericenones. “These are fat-soluble compounds and lion’s mane supplements extracted by hot water will not contain them. In addition, the two compounds are more abundant in the fruiting body of lion’s mane, than in its mycelium,” she said.
In addition to its brain health product, Redd offers a cardiovascular line suited for the 50 and older customer.
“Our line is unique in that we have designed a system of products to significantly improve the lives of those that need cardiovascular support by getting to the root of the problem,” said Chapman.
The line consists of:
• Heart Strong, the foundational cardiovascular formula, is designed to promote healthy heart energy and increase resistance to a wide range of stressors.
• 120/80 Care supports healthy blood pressure (already within normal range) by combining Redd’s Cardio Stress Blend of herbs with mineralbased nutrition that supports healthy blood flow, smooth muscle relaxation and the kidneys.
• Cholesterol D-fense supports healthy body function for stress response, hormone balance and Production, fat-soluble vitamin metabolism, or vessel dam- age.
• Circulation VA delivers whole food ingredients, the star being Whole Food Natto, which is standardized for nattokinase at 20,000 FU/g and includes all the other naturally occurring enzymes and probiotics found in natto.
“Redd Remedies’ products focus on the core issues related to heart health rather than just symptoms and recognizing that stress, particularly emotional stress, plays a significant role in heart health,” he added.
FoodScience offers the 50 and over consumer support for their hearts, but also takes their wallets into consideration with its Cholestafe, which is formulated to support proper cardiovascular functioning and the maintenance of cholesterol levels within the normal range*, said Watson.
“Cholestafe includes a variety of antioxidants, including coenzyme Q10, and is a cost-effective supplement because it provides the synergistic effects of eight nutrients in just one capsule three times daily,” she added.
The 50 and older shopper actively seeks efficacious ways to support their health, and rather than having someone make that decision for them, they want to be part of the conversation. Where that conversation happens is a different matter.
One of Mushroom Wisdom’s strengths, according to Noonan, is pulling customers to retailers via consumer advertising and social media marketing, and it plans on stepping up those activities. “It is not just the kids who are social media savvy, those 50 and over are just as savvy and are heavy users both personally and for business,” she said, adding that the company also creates monthly specials For retailers who can receive discounts on inventory. “And, we provide retailers with any informational materials they need for themselves and their customers.”
According to retailer Stark, her customers come through her door “because they want to talk to us. They trust us, and we all learn together. They also love our newsletter and the articles we provide,” said Stark.
Sevo Nutraceuticals offered Stark such a learning opportunity when it launched its brain health product PERCEPTIV.
“Sevo Nutraceuticals was wonderful in that they not only came in and did a staff training, but they agreed to give a talk in our store and to offer a challenge: Take the brain quiz, obtain a marker, take their product (at a discount for two months), come back and take the brain quiz again to see if there’s been a sharpening of brain function,” she said.
“We offer complete staff training with the lead researcher, Dr. Shea, on our product so they understand where the formula came from and the benefits it may impart. We also offer complete selling materials such as brochures and point-of-sale signage,” said Sevo’s Swenson, adding that for those retailers that can accommodate it, the company has Shea do a brain health seminar for 20 to 40 people at the retail location.
And it’s this kind of support that Starks’ customers respond to. “The challenge dealing with the older crowd are that they’re less easily bamboozled (at least in our store)—they’re curious and want to engage,” she said.
MegaFood prides itself on the impactful educational programs it offers for retailers, thanks greatly to a well-established relationship. “The content of these programs has been adapted from the teachings and writings of Andrew Weil, MD, leading integrative medical doctor, and they focus on diet, exercise, lifestyle management and an overall integrative approach to proactive health, as opposed to product training,” said Gillespie. “The goal is to help educate retailers with credible information so that they can facilitate community learning in a supportive environment.”
In closing, Mushroom Wisdom’s Noonan noted that today’s retailers should understand that their establishments are no longer “health food” stores, but “healthy lifestyle centers.”
“Customers do not just come in for ‘products.’ They visit to learn, explore and to figure out how the products can work in their lifestyles. You’ll have the ‘newbies,’ who made the decision (usually based on a physician’s dark prognosis) to adopt a healthier lifestyle, and you have the ‘veterans’ who took to the healthy lifestyle with gusto, having seen numbers (weight, blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure) fall into healthy ranges due to those healthier habits,” she said. “The ‘newbies’ are starting from scratch—food, supplements, herbal preparations, teas, etc. The ‘veterans’ want to know, ‘What’s new for me? Have any lectures coming up? Where can I get a holistic massage?’”
Further, she suggested that healthy lifestyle retailers network with other natural health partners: gyms, nutritionists, holistic massage therapists, etc. “Promote one another in places of business and also on social media,” Noonan added. “Invite them for a lecture series.”
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
1 EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA). “Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to polyphenols in olive and protection of LDL particles from oxidative damage.” EFSA Journal 2011;9(4):2033.
2 Kawagishi, H., Zhuang, C., “Compounds for dementia from Hericium erinaceum.” Drugs of the Future. 2008 33(2): 149-155.