Boomers want healthy, customizable food experiences

April 10, 2012

Boomers understand intelligent eating can help them rise to their many other life challenges.

Boomers planning to retire likely have more questions than answers these days. They need to resurrect their nest eggs, plan their financial streams, figure out where they want to live, be available for elderly parents and their children, and weigh the uncertainties of their own health as they age.

With so many concerns facing Boomers, it might seem that food choices and food shopping practices wouldn’t command such close attention. After all, they have a lifetime of ingrained eating habits.

Yet people seem to understand the right food choices they can afford can help sustain them to deal with life’s other challenges. Research from Canada and the United States—nations where many Boomers have similar lifestyles and life issues—reflect deliberate thinking about how they eat.

The annual Eating Patterns in Canada study by NPD Group shows that nutrition and healthy eating habits are top priorities for aging Canadians. Boomers, it said, are more concerned than any other age group about nutrition when planning a meal. Indeed, 72% of Canadians age 65 and older regard nutrition as important as taste—compared with 62% of those age 35-44 and 57% of those age 18-34.  

Fruits and vegetables assume larger roles in the diets of aging Canadians, the study found. And nearly half of those 65 and older (44%) follow Canada’s Food Guide, compared with 21% of those age 18-34. Younger Boomers are diet-conscious:  14% of those age 46-64 are on a diet by choice, along with 7% on a diet prescribed by a physician, reported NPD.

The push for healthier diets is a response to their weight struggles:  63% of those age 45-64 are overweight or obese compared with 51% of those age 18-44. How does this play out? Three-quarters (74%) of those age 65+ feel caution is in order when serving foods with saturated fat; 71% say the same about salt or sodium, and 68% say it about trans fats. Younger Boomers age 46-65 look for foods with more fiber (62%), antioxidants (37%) and Omega-3s (35%), the research showed.

This correlates with a Nestle document, Marketing to Baby Boomers, which cites NPD Group data in the United States. It said seven out of ten Boomers seek more fiber, 60% try to consume less fat and cholesterol, and 40% aim to eat fewer fried foods.  

Boomers spend more on their weekly food budget than any other age group, according to Packaged Facts, which Nestle cited. “When they eat, they’re looking for balance, and they understand the concept of forgoing one thing in order to enjoy something else….Authority avoiders since the ‘60s and ‘70s, today’s Boomers want to…eat what they want and how much they want, when and where they want it.  Menu items that offer portion-control options, mix-and-match menus that allow customers to select a specific sauce for the steak or their favorite individual side dish, toss-your-own salads, build-your-own sandwiches, extended day parts (all-day breakfast)…and all other examples of customizable food and experience.”