Mindful of the huge marketing opportunities associated with health-conscious baby boomers, manufacturers are branding their food product to meet the needs of this powerful, 50+ demographic.
"The aging baby boomer segment is very important because of its sheer size," said Justin Lambeth, senior brand manager, ketchup, H. J. Heinz Co., Pittsburgh. "On a continuing basis, we're looking for ways to reach those consumers with health-targeted products, either through the fortification of existing product or development of new ones." Market research statistics confirm what more and more manufacturers are beginning to realize: that older boomers -- those born between 1946 and 1964 who wield extraordinary purchasing power -- are extremely interested in food products that positively impact health.
"Clearly, baby boomers are driving the functional nutrition and food-as-medicine trends," said Linda Gilbert, president, HealthFocus, Atlanta, a market research and consulting firm specializing in food and nutrition.
Baby boomers are addressing health problems not by medication or treatment, but dietary and lifestyle changes, according to the "2001 HealthFocus Trend Report."
Products wielding the best marketing and branding initiative -- with Web-based information playing a key role -- may well be the winners in this high-stake game.
"More and more baby boomers are relying on the Web for information," Gilbert said. "Consumers go online to learn about what products are available that offer the health and nutrition features and benefits they're looking for."
Gilbert noted that, as information becomes more product-specific, the more useful it becomes. However, she added, "it's more credible letting a consumer know what all the options are, rather than just the ones you're selling."
Since the extremely sizable, aging population is growing at a much faster rate than the younger segment, manufacturers are looking for a connection to appeal to this larger group, according to Courtney Day, senior vice president, marketing, The Senior Network, Stamford, Conn., a marketing services company that targets mature consumers.
"Health benefits are a way for manufacturers to give mature consumers a reason to consider or reconsider their products," Day said.
The rush is on to cater to aging baby boomers with health on their minds and money to spend to get it. Following are strategies that Quaker, Heinz and General Mills/DuPont are using:
Quaker and Cholesterol Reduction Quaker Oats Co., Chicago, is targeting its new Take Heart line to shoppers with high cholesterol.
"One hundred million consumers in the United States, that's half of the adult American population, have elevated cholesterol, and a large majority of that population is the over-50 demographic," said Eve Watson, assistant marketing manager, Take Heart, Quaker Oats Co., Chicago, now part of PepsiCo, Purchase, N.Y.
The company is highlighting the "delicious" flavor of the line, which consists of ready-to-eat cereals, snack bars and fruit juice beverages.
"Baby boomers are not willing to compromise or trade off on great taste and convenience," said Watson.
Quaker felt it was "very important" to appeal to the aging boomer, according to Watson. "We need to address their health concerns and we're excited about the impact we can make," she said.
The Take Heart line contains Reducol, a natural, plant sterol/stenol blend, clinically shown to safely and effectively cause as much as 40% of unnecessary cholesterol to pass through the body, with no observed side effects. Quaker cited research showing that, after 30 days, 1.7 grams of Reducol taken daily as part of a low-fat diet may lower LDL, or "bad," cholesterol up to 24% and total cholesterol up to 19%.
The line's brightly designed packaging clearly communicates the health benefits to the consumer, a move that's especially significant for its cereal products.
"Cereals are a crowded category and the product had to have good shelf presence," Watson said. "What drove us is what we wanted to show -- health benefits and naturalness, because we didn't want consumer concern. We also wanted the health claim to be part of the branding."
The result -- the "Take Heart Helps Reduce Cholesterol" banner logo -- makes an impact. The logo consumes at least half the package's front face that also shows "Heart Healthy" and Reducol signatures. A side panel further describes the ingredients, provides the www.takeheartfromquaker.com Web address, and gives a toll-free number allowing the consumer to speak with a registered dietician. The site provides more detailed information about the line's health claims.
Heinz and Lycopene
Heinz has capitalized on boomers' anti-aging agenda by touting the lycopene content in its ketchup. Lycopene -- the ingredient in tomatoes that makes them red -- is a proven antioxidant, a substance that neutralizes oxygen-derived by-products called free radicals, thus helping to keep the aging process at bay.
The latest research provides new evidence that levels of lycopene are maintained or even increased when tomatoes are processed into soups, sauces and ketchup.
Heinz's Lambeth said the company's ketchup marketing endeavor is "a broad education effort and integrated awareness program about the benefits of lycopene."
He said, "We feel we're a category leader with a responsibility to educate consumers on health products."
Although Heinz describes the benefits on the product's brightly colored yellow and red label -- "Lycopene is another great reason to love Heinz Ketchup!" trumpets the text -- Lambeth points out the information is on the back of the bottle.
"We wanted to maintain the integrity of the icon label," he said, referring to the classic black-and-white logo that's remained unchanged for 130 years.
However, the not-visible-on-the-shelf position of the lycopene blurb has neither affected consumer pursuit of information nor their expressions of appreciation.
"We get lots of calls and very positive feedback from consumers," Lambeth said. "Customers let us know on the web site and by calling the '800' consumer line that they appreciate being educated about lycopene."
Lambeth noted that manufacturers who don't respond to the 50-plus boomers' needs will miss out on an opportunity.
"You've got to look at all different age groups and go after them independently," Lambeth stated.
The Heinz-maintained Web site at www.lycopene.org -- the address for which is noted on the lycopene label -- provides research updates, scientific abstracts, comparative lycopene content of foods and even teacher resource material.
Consumers interested in additional material may also purchase at the site a paperback book, "Unlock the Power of Lycopene," by David Yeung, Ph.D., Heinz's director of corporate nutrition, for $13.50 Also, consumers who access the company's Web site at www.heinz.com requesting information can receive a free, 10-page lycopene brochure.
General Mills/Dupont and Soy
In a joint venture, General Mills and DuPoint created 8th Continent, a standalone company that markets soymilk. In doing so, they have an arsenal of opportunities to market the attributes of soy. Because preliminary research has identified soy as a protein food product that may protect against heart disease, osteoporosis, hormone-related cancers, as well as easing menopausal symptoms, baby boomer women in their 50s have been avidly pursuing the soy connection to health.
The key health concerns of women aged 50-64 are menopause, and various age-related and cardiovascular diseases, according to market research conducted by the Hartman Group, a Bellevue, Wash.-based consultancy.
"This is a very proactive group," said Laurie Demeritt, president and chief operating officer, Hartman. "Unlike the generation before, these women are not relying on doctors to guide them. If manufacturers understood that these female consumers are going out and arming themselves with information they've downloaded from the Web and taking the printouts to the store, then companies would make sure to have information available."
Not surprisingly, then, 8th Continent's quart-size container states on its back label the claim approved by the Food and Drug Administration: "Helps lower cholesterol: 25 grams of soy protein a day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease." The blurb also notes the product contains seven grams of soy protein per serving.
And the container -- a plastic, easy-to-grip recyclable bottle rather than more typical aseptic packaging -- is also a strong marketing feature.
"Consumers told us the plastic bottle is easier to shake, hold on to and pour than other types of packaging," said Scott Lutz, Minneapolis-based 8th Continent's chief executive officer. "It's convenient for use when at home or on-the-go, as many 50-plus women are."
DuPont has gone even further to ensure optimal product marketing of the soymilk, which is available in original, vanilla and chocolate flavors and sold as a perishable item in the refrigerated dairy section. The company selected 8th Continent -- which rolled out regionally this past summer and launches nationally in spring 2002 -- as the first product to carry the Solae trademark, created by Protein Technologies International, a DuPont business based in St. Louis, Mo., as a vehicle for positioning its healthy food ingredients. "There's a lot of information in the marketplace about soy protein," said J. Erik Fyrwald, nutrition and health vice president and general manager, DuPont, Wilmington, Del. "We know that more than 70% of consumers polled want nutritious foods. When they see the Solae mark on packages, they will be assured that their families are getting great tasting, nutritionally advanced products."
Both size bottles contain the Web site address at www.8thcontinent.com, as well as the "800" number to call for additional information. The site not only explains the health benefits and provides recipes, but allows consumers to e-mail messages or queries.