The Baby Boomer generation, those born between 1946 and 1964, comprises about 30% of the US population. Despite the onset of age-related conditions, Boomers generally desire to lead active, vital lifestyles but can be hindered by a pronounced lack of energy. While the market is flush with a variety of energy bars and beverages, few are poised to appeal to the sensibilities of the more mature consumer.
“Our research shows that energy drinks on the market today are not resonating with aging shoppers,” commented Brent Baarda, director, Consulting & Innovation, SymphonyIRI Group. “My belief is that energy drinks and most related products are aimed at the younger set and positioned as an athletic performance enhancer or a quick caffeine fix. For these marketers, younger consumers represent the low-hanging fruit and they’re having some success but as the ‘energy’ market matures, they’ll need to branch out with products that appeal to older consumers, if, in fact the demand is even there.
“I believe that aging shoppers view energy as a direct result of a good diet, regular exercise, plenty of sleep, and a purpose-filled life – rather than a product attribute,” he said.
“Most shoppers give themselves high marks for making healthy food choices but perceive a lack of attention from both retailers and manufacturers,” added IRI’s Sean 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.”
According to Natural Marketing Institute’s (NMI) 2010 Healthy Aging/Boomer Survey, 6% of Boomers reported that they consumed “Energy Beverages (e.g., Red Bull)” – a number that has trended downward from the 9% reported in NMI’s 2006 survey. The same held true for bars, with 21% of Boomers reporting that they had consumed “Energy Bars,” down from 27% in 2006. NMI’s Greg Stephens, vice president, strategic consulting, said the blips could be chalked up to a variety of reasons, with “several factors probably in play…including the economy.”
Unlike other age-related consumer groups, Baby Boomers can have very unique energy needs. Raj Khankari, PhD, CEO of Minneapolis, MN-based Bioenergy Life Sciences Inc. recently completed a clinical trial on how supplemental ribose can alleviate fatigue in this target population. The continuum of work covered just over two years of research and was titled “D-Ribose Reduces Fatigue in Baby Boomers: Open Label and Placebo Controlled Studies.”
In his report, Dr. Khankari wrote that the daily life demands of Boomers can limit exercise opportunities, leading to deconditioning, undesirable body mass index values and down-regulated energy production pathways. This combination of physical attributes perpetuates inactivity and contributes to the fatigue often experienced by this population.
D-Ribose, a naturally occurring pentose carbohydrate, helps preserve and restore the cellular energy supply. It’s been proven to increase cellular energy, reduce fatigue and improve heart function in patients with ischemic heart disease and/or chronic heart failure; reduce muscle pain and improve quality of life in patients suffering from fibromyalgia; and in a healthy normal population, accelerate the resupply of cellular energy following high-intensity exercise, thereby relieving delayed onset muscle soreness and improving exercise performance.
The patients in Dr. Khankari’s two-pronged trial were fatigued Baby Boomers with no known cardiovascular, pulmonary, or metabolic disease or disorder. The first phase of the study was open label (conducted in 2008) and the second phase was placebo-controlled (conducted in 2009).
At the close of his research, Dr. Khankari concluded D-ribose effectively reduced symptoms of fatigue in an aging Baby Boomer population. “Doses of 3 grams two times per day are sufficient to provide significant improvement in quantitative measures of breathing efficiency and cellular energy management. D-Ribose supplementation improves functional capacity, aerobic exercise tolerance and mental health,” he wrote.
Kathy Lund, Bioenergy’s vice president of marketing and sales, Ribose Ingredient Division, explained that D-Ribose is fundamentally unlike other energy ingredients. “Bioenergy Ribose is metabolized differently in the body than other sugars,” she said. “It is not a stimulant and does not raise blood glucose levels.”
And because it is not a stimulant, it also does not cause an energy “crash” a few hours after consumption. “It is more of a sustaining energy source,” she said.
Bioenergy Ribose is patent protected and FDA GRAS affirmed. It is widely used in a variety of supplements, beverages and functional foods.
But ribose isn’t the only ingredient catching the attention of energy product formulators. Cognizin citicoline and Sustamine, both from New York-based Kyowa Hakko, are currently used in many energy product formulations.
Cognizin citicoline, used in the popular 5 Hour Energy and in an Emergen-C energy shot called Alert, supports memory function, attention, recall and healthy cognition, especially cognitive health issues that are age-related, according to Karen Todd, RD, CISSN, CSCS, a registered dietitian and director of marketing for Kyowa Hakko USA, Inc. Sustamine, a combination of two amino acids, L-glutamine and L-alanine, supports hydration and muscle recovery which Ms. Todd said could be important to active Baby Boomers.
“Cognizin Citicoline increases the bioenergetics in the brain,” she said. “Brain imaging techniques showed healthy middle-aged adults had increased energy and electrical activity in the frontal lobe of the brain—the portion of the brain that controls higher thought, decision making and focus.”
Kyowa obtained self-affirmed GRAS status for Cognizin and Ms. Todd said the company is expanding the use of Cognizin in a wide variety of food and beverages and beverage bases, breakfast cereals, chewing gum, dairy product analogs, frozen dairy desserts, grain products and pastas, hard candies, milk and milk products, processed fruits and fruit juices, and soft candy.
She also explained that Sustamine appears to increase electrolyte and fluid uptake across the intestines and provide advanced hydration for dehydrated individuals. “When a person exercising loses only 2% of their body weight in fluids, significant declines can be seen in their performance,” she said. “The alanine in Sustamine can act as a energy substrate and may contribute to the delay in fatigue by sparing muscle glycogen.”
She pointed to a study published in February in the Journal of International Sports Nutrition that concluded Sustamine with water had a “statistically significant benefit of enhancing endurance performance of dehydrated subjects, when plain water did not show a statistically significant benefit.”
Americans aged 55 and older represent more than one-third of the U.S. population. Given the unique age- and life-related conditions that can adversely impact the energy levels of this niche consumer, typical energy beverages and bars aren’t always a good fit, making this area a ripe opportunity for formulators keen on exploring this virtually untapped and potentially lucrative market.