December 2011/Prepared Foods -- A reader wrote me that while lifespans have increased, it is often due to medical intervention, rather than healthier lifestyles. It is sometimes forgotten that living longer is not the goal, but rather to live healthier; to be on your own, taking care of your own needs; and living life on your own terms.
Older people
The fastest growing consumer group will be those over 60

A 2011 A.T. Kearney “Global Maturing Consumer Study” (http://tinyurl.com/7thjcko) says falling birthrates and increased longevity are global trends. In 1998, those over 60 overtook those younger than 15 in the G7 countries. For the rest of this century, the fastest growing consumer group will be those over 60; the fastest growing segment in the U.S. workforce will be those 65 and older.

Seniors shop differently and want different things. “Mature consumers spend proportionally less of their income on clothing and transportation than people under age 60 and more on food, beverages and non-prescription health products,” the study notes. Of those 80 and over, 19% use the Internet, and 29% shop on it (presumably, with help).

Seniors are staying healthy longer and are wealthier than in the past. “People are active and healthy well into their 70s and 80s,” says the study, and perhaps 90s and 100s, as well.

This, Prepared Foods’ Annual Health Issue, is dedicated to two people for whom age 100 is closer than age 75. First, there is Dr. Elwood Caldwell, my graduate school adviser, who still attends local IFT and AACC meetings. When I asked him about food science’s contribution to society, he noted that a walk through a grocery store shows its role. “Most products were not available 20 or even 10 years ago. Food science has contributed to human nutrition and the nutritional value of foods,” he says. He points to his own research, published in the 1960s, which showed antioxidant ingredients could extend the shelflife of cereals susceptible to atmospheric oxidation. Our conversation ended, as he and his wife headed out for a walk.

Then there is my Aunt Helen. At 96, she takes care of her own health appointments, her own laundry and makes most of her own meals (and drinks a bit…scotch, please). As we recently shopped, I limped after her (the result of a mild fall) and had to ask her to wait up for me. She gravitates towards new foods and beverages; her kitchen cabinet houses recently launched products. 

So here’s to satisfying the Dr. Caldwells and Aunt Helens of the world with better tasting, good-for-you foods. pf