Business and Operations
Boomers Seeking Fountain of Youth
November 5, 2007 By Gail Powell with files from Cynthia David
Choosing functional foods for an old age as mellow as fine wine
Today’s busy boomers are trading up their rockers for BMWs. For Canada’s largest segment born between 1947 and 1956, this “rebellious” generation wants it all. Whether they’re a Back-End Boomer (40-50) or a Front End Boomer (51-60), neither group is caving into “old age” quietly, and they’re looking to the food industry to support their habits. Portion control, healthy choices and functional foods are key. This “Big Generation” wants to live forever, and though they may have a taste for fast cars, they’re looking to mellow out like a fine wine.
“Their goal now is to stay healthy as long as possible, and I’ve found that Boomers are clearly worried about their health,” says University of Toronto economist and futurist, David Foot.
Foot, who’s tracked the economic impact of our declining and aging population in his Boom Bust & Echo books, says that along with avoiding saturated fat, salt, sugar, and now trans fats, boomers are also eating more fresh fruit and vegetables, and are looking for smaller portion sizes. “There’s a temptation to give the customer more,” he says, “but super-sizing is not consistent with an aging population.” After all as we grow older, he says, we don’t need as much food to feel full.
Boomers are also looking for additional “roughage” or fibre in their diets, says Foot; yet his research shows that seniors are eating less pasta. “Yes, it’s economical and filling,” he agrees, “but older people don’t need to be filled up.” The quantity of bread boomers eat will probably go down, he predicts, but it won’t disappear, because of it being a good source of fibre.
His studies also show that we eat more breakfast cereal as we age, as it satisfies the need for fibre and, he adds, can be combined with fresh fruit.
Foot also believes that “because of allergies, lactose intolerance, diabetes and obesity on the rise, . . . boomers are reading labels more carefully today.”
According to a 2006 Eating Patterns in Canada (EPIC) report from market research firm, The NPD Group, consumers are now, more than ever, reading health and nutritional claims, when choosing one product over another. Common flashes found on food packages, such as “0 Trans Fats” or “No Sugar Added,” are swaying consumers, and giving them a justification to choose one particular snack food over another. The EPIC findings also add that 55 per cent polled admitted that they frequently check labels to determine whether foods contain ingredients that they are trying to avoid. This represents an eight per cent increase since 2002.
Not so fast, says Jim Carroll, a Toronto-based futurist, trend watcher and innovation consultant. “Boomers may talk a good game about health, but they don’t really want to work at it.”
This generation is in absolute denial, Carroll says and he cites a recent survey from the Heart and Stroke Foundation entitled, Is 60 the new 70?.
“It stated that 58 per cent of Boomers think their weight has little or no effect on their heart health. Compared to 10 years ago, the rates of obesity in Boomers have soared by nearly 60 per cent – now 52 per cent are inactive, and yet 80 per cent still think they will enjoy a longer life expectancy than previous generations.”
He added, “Boomers say they’re going to do all these healthy things, heed the warnings and advice but there’s a large segment of them that have thrown caution to the wind.” The boomers are known for being rebellious. I saw many of them ripping up the road on their Harleys this weekend on my drive up to Collingwood, Carroll muses.
“Boomers like to indulge in everything – and they won’t do what the food industry thinks they will do,” predicted Carroll.v
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