ASIA Growing demand for 'Healthy Ageing' products as APAC is home to 60% of world's elderly population January 2021

AFBR has the opportunity to interview Ms Bettina Hudry-Gerez, Head of BU for Nutrition & Health, Agriculture and Sustainability (Asia) from Alcimed, a business consulting firm specialising in life-sciences, to uncover the huge future potential of food and beverage products for ‘healthy ageing’ in this region.

According to Ms Bettina, Asia Pacific region is currently home to about 60% of the world’s senior population and is also the fastest ageing region in the world. By 2050, the number of seniors or elderly people in this region is projected to more than doubled. The pace at which this population shift is happening is even more alarming in the world’s top 2 most populous countries, China and India. For instance, India pre-senior adults (45-60 years) are expected to increase from 15% of the total population in 2020 to 20% in 2050. Bettina said, “With the world’s population ageing at an unprecedented rate, coupled with increasing life expectancy, improving health literacy and rising affluence, the potential demand for healthy ageing food products will undoubtedly be massive as consumers begin to look towards the health trend.” See chart 1.0 for breakdown of elderly people in selected Asian countries over the year 2015 and 2030.

One of the key nutrition sources for supporting the healthy ageing movement is functional food. In Asia Pacific alone, the functional food market is projected to increase from US$51 billion in 2019 to US$71 billion in 2025. Fortified foods is one of the main functional food segments, in which the addition of nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals on food products can support the daily nutrition intake of the population. The functional foods and dietary supplements category is growing with the higher demand from consumers that are aiming to age healthily. Bettina commented that due to this opportunity, around 44% of more than 5,000 visitors of Vitafoods Asia in 2018 sought products and information on healthy ageing.

As we see the world focusing much on the development of the plant-based category, ‘healthy ageing’ product development should not be overlooked. In fact, healthy ageing is not limited to a product category but it is a holistic concept that will impact many categories including the plant-based movement. According to Bettina, the interest shown by major industrials from many sectors, combined with the many investments pumped into the healthy ageing trend may show some similarities with plant-based food products development. However, due to the diverse industries that can play a role in the healthy ageing trend, products may not be limited to purely food-based, but also spurring developments in the healthcare, fitness, cosmetics, and even tourism industry.

When we talk of ‘healthy ageing’, this basically refers to a wide range of issues ranging from increasing immunity to improving bone and joint health and mobility, cardiovascular health, digestive function as well as enhancing cognitive and memory benefit. All these issues are of major importance to ageing consumers as bodily functions start to diminish over time. Ms Bettina mentioned that one common disease that predominantly affects the elderly is osteoporosis, a condition whereby the bone mineral density is gradually lost resulting in higher risk of bone fractures, particularly at the hip. Interestingly, it is projected that by 2050, half of all hip fractures will occur in Asia. Another disease commonly affecting the elderly is dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

One area of food and beverage products that can be explored for the elderly include calcium-fortified food and beverages to maintain bone strength such as soy, milk and milk-substitutes as well as cereals and fruit juice products.

In Asia, herbal dietary supplements are also popular because of its practical uses and believed from generation to generation to be more natural and safer to consume. The most popular herbal supplements in Asia originated from traditional Chinese medicine, traditional Ayurvedic medicine from India, and Jamu from Javanese traditional medicine. Herbal supplements use botanical ingredients eg. leaves, roots, seeds, fruits to algae that contains natural compounds to provide various health benefits. Turmeric, a major source of curcumin, is a popular example widely believed for its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effect for arthritis treatment. Furthermore, the combination of multiple herbal ingredients provides a better value proposition on the health benefits for consumers. This results in the higher growth of the combination herbal market, with almost twice the market growth as compared to single herb supplement in Malaysia (9.5% vs 5.7% from 2012-2017).

As Asian economies become more developed, we will see a growing number of affluent consumers from the major cities who will be main consumers of ‘healthy ageing’ products. Bettina said, “These are the group of consumers who are more educated, and aware of taking charge of their health. In the near future, millennials will be a major consumer group, being highly health conscious and willing to pay a premium for health benefits in their purchases. Middle aged adults who are caught in the sandwich generation, where they need to financially support and take care for both their old parents and children, are also potential consumers for healthy ageing as they transit to the senior phase.”

For food and beverage companies that are exploring into the ‘healthy ageing’ category, Bettina has some words of advise. “As healthy ageing has different priorities for different age segments eg, preventive for mid to senior ages; and management and curative for senior ages, it is important to define the target consumer group. It is also key to determine the function or health benefit for better market positioning. Healthy ageing must be seen as a central pillar to industrials thinking and not be seen as a product category only. Companies should base themselves on the consumer segments and associated needs to accelerate market entry and optimise market penetration. By targeting consumers with personalised priorities in their different phases of life, companies can become a key partner for consumers all along the life stage with an angle of health benefits.”

Alcimed has recently released its Position Paper on Healthy Aging. To get a copy of this report, click HERE




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