What matters to older consumers?

It’s a segment of the buying public that is growing certainly. According to Eurostat, part of the population aged 65 or older in the EU is set to rise from 17% in 2010 to 30% in 2060. One in eight people will be aged 80 or older in 2060.

With this opportunity come the expectant challenges. There are parallels to be made with the children’s category in terms of flavour, color and texture demands. Both groups require a certain look, feel or taste in order for a food to be considered palatable.

Perhaps the requirements of the elderly are more so with ingrained taste preferences that are hard to shake off or give up.

There is also the physical decline and sensory impairment that accompany age such as dysphagia – difficulty in chewing and swallowing food.

Progress with pure foods

So what approaches have food makers turned to in order to cater to the elderly? Changes to texture have been the most popular. This is partly due to the relative ease in adjusting this factor during the reformulation process.

There are typically three levelsof food texture modification. These often include foods that are soft, minced, moist or mashed, and pureed or ground.

Pureed foods in particular are considered the modification of choice as its soft, moist consistency is ideally suited for the elderly. Additionally minimal chewing effort is required to break pureed food down.

Pureed food can also handle the addition of a nutrient-rich liquid to ensure the final product meets the dietary requirements of the elderly.

“Nutrient dilution can occur if food is pureed with water,”​ said Dr Julie Cichero, lecturer and researcher with the University of Queensland in Australia.

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