Marketing to silver surfers

At the mid-point of my career in brand and marketing in the 80’s, there was a step-change in attitude relating to the value of targeting older consumers – in marketing speak coined as ‘marketing to silver surfers’.

Historically, this demographic had been largely ignored as they were viewed as cynical, demanding, critical and difficult to influence to the extent that would manifest in a change in purchasing behaviour. In short, not worth the marketing investment.

But then marketers realised that this demographic had higher relative wealth and greater spending power than the audiences which were the target of their main marketing spend.

And rather than continuing to view them as a secondary, peripheral audience, brands started to manifest with this audience at their core.

And today there are significant innovation opportunities in relation to healthy ageing and the food and drink sector can continue to unlock innovation opportunities by focusing on this growing importance.

Europe is ageing. By 2050 the population of over 65s is expected to reach almost 150m in the region and as highlighted in my 2021 trends report, we now have more individuals over 60 than under 16 in the UK.

Driven by falling fertility rates and increasing life expectancy, many countries are ageing at a faster pace than in the past.

According to the World Health Organization, by 2030 there are expected to be 44 ‘super-aged’ countries where more than 20% of the population is over 65, including Italy, Germany and the UK.

And this is a large, growing, and relatively affluent demographic.

However, right now the number of new products launched that cater to ‘silver surfers’ and ‘baby boomers’ pales in comparison to those targeting trendy millennials or Generation Z.

But it is clear that the narrative on ageing needs to evolve. Living longer, healthier lives will impact people of all ages and there are many opportunities for the nutrition industry in particular to adapt their brand position and product portfolios and there are three key, food and drink sectors which can successfully target this important demographic.

The first is the nutraceutical and supplements space.

Gains can be expected for products that cater to this older demographic by boosting immunity, bone, joint, muscle, cognitive, heart health, skin, eye and particularly digestive health.

The importance of gut health is a rapidly emerging science and evidence is growing at a significant rate relating good gut health to overall physical and mental wellbeing.

And as we age, our ability to fully absorb nutrients does decrease so whilst supplementation will not only remain important to this group, it is likely to see further growth.

Vitamin D, B12 and calcium deficiencies are often seen in older individuals which is associated with age-related osteoporosis.

But in my view, the real winners will be brands that look at holistic health, improving our natural balance and our relationship with high quality nutrition.

Many consumer brands are already active in adult nutrition. Indeed, not only did Healthspan lead the way in targeting this demographic but they were also very early adopters of a direct-to-consumer model.

The second is the development of grocery items that are pitched specifically at older consumers.

Just like we currently see vegan or baby products in the supermarket today, I expect that we will see more products created to specifically target this important demographic.

And there is already some evidence of this happening with numerous brands exploring single-serve food products suited to the dietary needs of many in this segment.

But it isn’t just about supermarket shelves, there is a continuing swell in ‘digitally savvy seniors’ who are showing a ‘growing appetite’ for e-commerce, accelerated of course by the pandemic.

Data from Barclays UK Spend Trends indicates that since 2016, the silver purse has been gradually moving more online.

Silver surfers

And in 2020, 22.1% of the total amount over 65s spend on food and drink in the UK took place online.

This compares to 20.1% in 2019. Interestingly, online penetration in food and drink for the silver purse did not change from 2016 to 2019.

And it is this significant growth which in my view creates the potential for the third opportunity – DNA nutrition.

As the microbiome becomes better understood and food intolerance testing continues its rapid online growth, then the opportunity for businesses to start to offer fully personalised nutritional solutions becomes a reality.

The increased demand from all consumers for better nutrition to enhance immunity is also likely to lead to the development of numerous holistic nutrition foods and drinks.

Leave a Reply