Major ‘Disease State’ Opps Grow as Boomers Age: Research

More than any other generation before them, baby boomers are learning how to manage such age-related health conditions as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, which will lead to higher demand for pharmacy and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines as well as food and beverage products with better-for-you attributes, recent research by Chicago-based SymphonyIRI Group (formerly IRI) has found. According to “Healthcare III: Understanding the Age-Driven Health & Wellness Needs of Baby Boomers,” retailers and manufacturers that pay attention to this trend will be poised to capitalize on the huge opportunity it represents.

“Americans aged 55 and older represent more than one-third of the U.S. population,” noted KK Davey, managing partner, SymphonyIRI Group Consulting & Innovation. “This number alone is quite staggering, and when you couple it with the fact that they control 50 percent of discretionary income and fill 30 percent more prescriptions than the average person, you have a golden opportunity. Retailers and manufacturers need to build shopper loyalty and a new competitive advantage around increased variety and in-store messaging that support categories, segments, and products with specific benefits that link to aged-driven health-and-wellness needs.”

“More and more aging consumers are searching for food and beverage solutions to help them maintain a quality of life in managing what are often multiple chronic disease states,” added Sean Seitzinger, partner, SymphonyIRI Group Consulting & Innovation. “In fact, two-thirds of disease-state shopper spending is earned by the grocery channel, which indicates grocery retailers have the largest disease-state management dollar opportunity during the next decade.”

For retailers and manufacturers, knowing which health conditions to focus on and which product attributes are most effective for these shoppers are key to building a disease state management platform. For instances, surveyed shoppers across all ailments rate whole grains, reduced fat and reduced sodium as attributes they seek out to manage their conditions.

Among the better-for-you products and attributes that are “top of mind” for these shoppers, and the types of products they buy as a result:

—High Blood Pressure: 87 percent of chronic sufferers use medication to treat their condition, but also 50 percent also employ on a healthy diet to manage and control their weight. They have to eschew high-sodium products, eat a lot of fiber and keep consumption of high-fat, high-calorie products to a minimum. Sugar-free diet candy, decaffeinated ground coffee and sugar substitutes are popular among these consumers.

—Diabetes: This health condition is normally treated with a regular regimen of medication and a well-managed diet. Diabetics shop for foods that are naturally high in fiber, protein and nutritional ingredients, and avoid sugar-added foods and beverages, and high-fat foods. Sugar-free chocolate candy, sugar substitutes, low-calorie soft drinks and single-serve dinner entrees with reduced calories and high protein appeal to these shoppers.

—High Cholesterol: 102 million consumers with this condition know that prescriptions can help lower cholesterol levels but only in combination with a healthy diet. Since many people with high cholesterol also have high blood pressure, their diet is similar to that of consumers with the latter condition. Reduced-fat and low-cholesterol products are high priorities for them.

—Heartburn/Acid Reflux: 77 million chronic sufferers take prescription and recent prescription-to-OTC products to manage their condition. Proper diet plays a smaller role, so antacid tablets, antacid liquid/powder and laxative tablets are desired products for this group.

When shopping for food and beverages, over 70 percent of shoppers said that affordability is a major obstacle to buying healthier products more frequently. Almost half also said that unpleasant-tasting products keep them from sticking to a healthier diet.

Further, over 50 percent of shoppers noted that food stores provide a good variety of healthy food, but they think retailers need to make such products easier to identify, through such methods as an on-shelf merchandising system that highlights items meeting particular health parameters.

“Most shoppers give themselves high marks for making healthy food choices but perceive a lack of attention from both retailers and manufacturers,” observed Seitzinger. “Much of this dissatisfaction is aimed at misleading product health labeling and the lack of available products that are designed to manage specific health issues. Functional foods with specific health benefits represent a major opportunity for food and beverage manufacturers.”

Findings presented in the report are culled from an extensive analysis of consumer information from the SymphonyIRI Consumer Network, RxPulse Patient Panel and InfoScan. For more information about the report’s availability and pricing, contact Seitzinger at [email protected]. Additionally, the market research firm is hosting a free webinar, “Leveraging Healthcare for Total Store Growth,” today at 12 p.m. CDT. To register for the event, which will be hosted by Seitzinger, go to
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