Consumer research, carried out by New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra, has revealed that older people in Europe are among the most apathetic in the world when it comes to addressing their own health issues; a fact that raises challenges for manufacturers looking to target this lucrative sector with health propositions.

Fonterra interviewed over 3,700 adults aged between 50-75 years and the research revealed that one in four Europeans within this age bracket choose to ignore their health issues; but for every apathetic older person, there are two willing to take control and make changes to their lifestyle to achieve health benefits.

Karin Feenstra, Consumer Market & Insights Manager for Fonterra Europe said that the results highlight some key challenges for manufacturers, but that there are rich pickings to be had for brands that take time to understand the audience, develop the right propositions, and invest in educating target consumers.

“There is growing scientific evidence supporting the role of protein and in particular dairy protein to aid healthy ageing. However, our research shows that European consumers are less likely to actively look for higher protein products, so high protein claims are not enough to persuade older people to purchase,” she said.

Fonterra is using its research to inform development of dairy protein ingredients designed to meet the specific needs of the ageing population; and work with manufacturers to develop product formats and brand concepts that resonate within this age grouping.

“This is an audience that has very strong opinions and preferences. They respond to unique drivers, so these have to be fully understood in order to achieve success,” said Ms Feenstra.

The research also highlighted the importance of engaging older people in Europe and educating them on the potential health benefits of core nutrients such as protein.

“European consumers have a lower appetite for seeking out information compared to other global markets,” said Ms Feenstra.

“To succeed, brands have to help older people to connect diet and exercise with health outcomes they can feel such as mobility, muscle strength and the ability to stay active.”

Fonterra has identified a group of consumers it calls ‘Active Seekers’; described as highly driven to make diet and lifestyle changes for health benefits, and likely to be the early adopters of any new solutions.

“Within Europe, we found that in France ‘Active Seekers’ account for just 8 per cent of the healthy ageing market, compared to 11 per cent in Germany and 16 per cent in the US and Australia. However, France has more ‘Health Seekers’ than most other markets. They are early followers, willing to make some sacrifices for health benefits, as long as it leaves room for taste and occasional treats. This means that with the right proposition Health Seekers could be a very lucrative opportunity,” said Ms Feenstra.

Fonterra’s research was carried out in 2011 across six countries, and interviewed approximately 1,200 adults aged between 50-75 years across France and Germany.