Business Insights: The Anti-Aging Market

By Gregory Stephens | September 1, 2009

Boomers' endless search for youth translates into emerging opportunities.

Today, consumers of all ages seem to be in a desperate search for the ever-elusive fountain of youth. This is especially true among Boomers who are either in the midst of, or fast approaching, their "aging years." According to the National Center for Health Statistics, Boomers accounted for more than 76 million U.S. births between 1946 and 1964. By comparison, there were less than 66 million births during the subsequent 18-year period. This is the first time in U.S. history that such a large demographic group is approaching its aging years. As a result, these consumers, known for exuding control over their own destiny, will be setting benchmarks in terms of their needs, desires and expectations with regard to healthy aging. With multiple years of trended data, The Natural Marketing Institute's (NMI's) Healthy Aging/Boomer Database offers unique insights on how the health and wellness industry can help consumers, including Boomers, maintain their youth, independence, vitality and relevance throughout the aging process.

The Look of Health

Time is undeniably the ultimate and inevitable enemy that consumers face in their battle against aging, but they continue to forge ahead with optimism and hope. In addition to wanting to live "forever," nearly three-fifths of consumers indicate they want to look younger while doing it. A similar number say one of the main reasons they maintain a healthy lifestyle is to reduce the physical signs of aging, such as wrinkles and graying hair. It appears that consumers believe that maintaining a healthy lifestyle for appearance reasons is paying off in that half indicate they look as good as they expected at their current age, while nearly a forth report that they look even better than they expected. Interestingly, this is especially true among the eldest generation.

Fifty-five percent of consumers strongly believe that how they take care of their body on the inside affects how they look on the outside; debunking the myth that beauty is only skin deep.

Many companies, such as Nestlé, are launching products that promote beauty from within. Nestlé's Glowelle, a well-known example, is a premium dietary supplement beauty drink. According to Nestlé, a daily serving of Glowelle helps delay aging by hydrating the skin.

This belief that such products may be effective remains strong across the generational continuum, creating the potential for marketers to provide products that will appeal to consumers throughout their lifetime. Supplements for skin, hair and nails, for example, have the potential to provide a lifetime of value, as roughly four in 10 consumers within each generation indicate that they already take these supplements. Of course, product formulations, positioning and potentially packaging may differ for each generation or even for segments within generations.

Health Conditions & Aging

Despite the fact that most consumers recognize the internal/external connection of aging, many are battling serious health conditions, especially obesity and heart problems. Over time, these conditions can wreak havoc on the aging process. On the positive side, for each of these conditions, those interested in preventing them outweigh those who are actively managing them, sometimes by nearly 5:1. While older generations of consumers are much more likely than younger generations to be managing or concerned about preventing most of these conditions, younger generations are certainly not without concern about prevention, suggesting an opportunity to help them do just that.

Research has also shown that compliance and long-term use of dietary supplement regimes is greater when consumers are managing or treating an existing health condition vs. using them for preventative purposes. For instance, consumers taking joint health supplements, where they "feel" the benefit, are more likely to take supplements regularly and long-term than those taking supplements for cholesterol reduction–where the cardiovascular benefits may be realized years in the future.

An additional factor is that preventative benefits are typically not readily measured or felt by the consumer. To enhance trial, compliance and long-term use for products or services offering preventive benefits, consumers must be presented with a compelling reason to believe; whether it is a health claim supported by substantial research, recommendation by a healthcare professional or other respected sources of information.

Weight Management, Inflammation & Stress

Managing weight is essential for maintaining youth, both internal and external. Not surprisingly, nearly half of U.S. consumers indicate they are actively managing their weight. Weight management for appearance reasons (approximately half of consumers) is more prevalent than weight management for health reasons (about one-third of consumers). Boomers, however, are significantly more likely than any other generation to be managing weight for health benefits. This is important to keep in mind when developing claims and positioning.

Another interesting trend is that one-quarter of consumers now recognize that weight gain is associated with high levels of inflammation. In fact, the pathway-poor diet-inflammation-insulin resistance-weight gain-which leads to further inflammation, can become a vicious cycle. If not properly managed, inflammation may also be a factor in asthma, heart disease, cancer and other major diseases that may dramatically reduce one's lifespan and quality of life.

More than one-third of Boomers report they are seeking ways to reduce inflammation. Interestingly, however, consumer knowledge of ingredients that have anti-inflammatory effects is almost non-existent. For instance, omega 3 fatty acids show a strong relation to inflammation reduction, yet even on an aided basis less than 10% of consumers understand the link. Strong consumer education and media messaging will be needed to get consumer buy-in for nutritional anti-inflammatory interventions.

Stress is another cause of inflammation and thus another challenge to healthy aging. Forty-four percent of consumers indicate that they live a stressful life and look for ways to simplify it. Stressful lifestyles have been further exacerbated by the economic downturn. In fact, in a recent study by NMI, more than 40% of consumers indicated that the amount of stress in their life is mainly caused by the economic downturn.

Stress can lead to lack of sleep, which causes lack of energy and even a loss of mental focus. Lack of energy and sleep have a measurable impact on aging and quality of life. Nearly half or more consumers indicate that these conditions make them feel older than they are, while a smaller percentage agree that each makes them look older than they are. The nutraceutical industry can help consumers combat inflammation and stress by providing appropriately formulated food, beverage and supplement applications, which together with lifestyle and other behavioral modifications will lead to better health.

Interestingly, 40% of adults report they sometimes feel their life is simply out of control. Now more than ever, consumers are seeking balance. They are starting with areas they feel they have the most control over, including their personal health. Increasing concern about prescription medications, an expensive and faltering healthcare system, and a downturn in the economy is pushing consumers to find less expensive ways to stay healthy, including self-directed and non-traditional therapies.

Three-quarters of consumers indicate that taking vitamins and nutritional supplements is a primary way to promote healthy aging. Half of consumers indicate they are always looking for new self-care methods to prolong their health and vitality. Nutrients emerging into mainstream markets, such as omega 3 fatty acids, probiotics, vitamin D and novel peptides, can help consumers stave off weight gain, stress and inflammation, helping to maximize youth and vitality.

Boomers want to live long, look young and remain active and healthy. The demand for anti-aging solutions is strong across all generations, but especially among the huge population of Boomers entering their "golden" years. Manufacturers, marketers and healthcare professionals face significant challenges; however, with proper assessment and planning they can be transformed into opportunities to help consumers' age both healthfully and gracefully, allowing them to make their centennial birthday wishes come true.

Editor's Note: Data in this article come from the Natural Marketing Institute's 2008 Health and
Wellness Trends Database and its 2009 Healthy Aging Boomer Database