Nutrition for silver years

Michelle Lee, regional marketing leader, Greater Asia, of IFF

The global food system currently faces a multitude of challenges on all fronts. Besides the issue of sustainability, security and safety, much also has to be considered for demographic.

As the world’s population continues to grow at a steady pace, increasing life expectancy and decreasing birth rates have resulted in an overall ageing population. Asia, for instance, is home to 60% of the world’s seniors in addition to housing the majority of the global population. The shift in demographic and age thus mandates a different approach to nutrition and food.

“Today’s seniors focus more on their quality of life, striving to remain active as they age, and taking a more proactive approach to managing their health. Subsequently, the shift we have seen is related to how nutrition and food & beverage products can positively impact health,” remarked Michelle Lee, regional marketing leader, Greater Asia, of IFF.

A study conducted by IFF in conjunction with IPSOS in December 2020 garnered deep insights in three Asian markets: China, Japan and South Korea. The study revealed the most pressing of age-related concerns and the needs of an ageing populace. More consumers, for example, are buying products rich in protein and fibre, which can boost their health and immune health for many years to come.

Besides consumer demands for nutritional content which can benefit health, texture and taste is also important to an ageing palate, which might have issue with chewing and swallowing. The ginseng and quinoa porridge by IFF, for instance, considers not only Asian tastebuds but also a softer texture for seniors.

“We also formulated the concept with low-GI ingredients, like quinoa, which helps manage blood sugar. We incorporated the concept with our RESPONSE® 4380, a textured soy protein that adds high-quality protein and a meat-like texture to such products.

“Similarly, we developed the plant-based jerky concept with seniors in mind by modifying its texture. Jerky can be hard to chew, and this meat-free alternative has a softer texture while still packing lots of flavour. It’s a great high-protein snack formulated with soy, featuring our isolated soy protein technology, SUPRO® 620.”

In formulating  these products, Lee maintains that it was vital to not only ensure that they deliver the appropriate nutritional content, but also the integrity of its taste. With seniors especially, care has to be taken in offering flavours that they are already familiar with whilst modifying its textures for easier chewing and digesting.

Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has also placed a greater emphasis on immune health. Food producers can therefore utilise high-quality protein and fibre-rich solutions that provide immune-boosting effects for consumers. One such example will be probiotics – whose associations with gut health also links it to immune health. Whilst being mindful of the growing demand of probiotics in Asia, and how 70% of its population might be lactose intolerant, IFF has consciously innovated plant-based beverages that are lactose-free but possess the benefits of probiotics.

“As these demands continue to shift, we also have an all-in-one nutrition solution that combines high-quality protein, fibre, and probiotics in an easy and accessible beverage format. Ultimately, we hope to blend creativity with science to develop timely and relevant solutions that meet the needs of consumers today and in time to come.”

New options, familiar tastes

According to Lee, there is a huge opportunity for food producers to innovate products for senior consumers, given that only 3.5% of food and beverage products are catered toward them in 2020. However, this might be no easy feat, given that older consumers might be reluctant to change their tastes and habits – it is thus imperative to formulate solutions that are familiar to their palate and dietary preferences that will educate them on the various option they have, but might not yet be attuned to.

“We find that many consumers are open to trying new products or formats with increased health benefits as they better understand how good nutrition contributes to better overall health. Through this, they can more confidently explore different formats of food and beverages that will open them to a world of functional nutrition, including that of plant-based meat alternatives,” Lee explained. “For example, we place great emphasis on formulating plant-based meat alternatives that have the same taste and texture as that of traditional meats, in addition to having food products that match their taste preferences or cooking style. This allows for a more natural progression in adoption rates as they are able to taste the familiarity in this category of functional food.”

Besides providing nutritious solutions, there is also a greater call to enhance mental wellbeing through food and beverage too. Mental wellness has also been a huge movement in the nutraceutical realm, with many companies incorporating solutions that aim to promote mental well-being in their products.

Lee, concluded: “We take a human-centric approach to any product we develop and draw from our consumer insights to formulate solutions that meet the needs of consumers today and tomorrow. It is equally important to heighten awareness and education of various issues so that the solutions also resonate with the intended target audience.”

This article was first published in the December 2021/January 2022 issue of Food & Beverage Asia.