When it comes to anti-aging products, supermarkets are already feeling the effect of the baby boomer glut. This group is already dictating the direction of health and beauty care merchandising in the 21st century.
The statistics alone are enough to turn retailers' heads. Every eight seconds someone turns 50 in the United States. That means by the year 2000, 12 million people will reach the half-century mark.
While marketers have latched on to the "50-Plus Market" as a distinct consumer segment, researchers and consultants point out that 50 is a somewhat arbitrary cut-off. "The over-50 market is as diverse as the 25-to-49 market," said Candace Corlett, a partner in 50+ Marketing Directions, a subsidiary of WSL Strategic Retail, New York. Corlett divides 50-plus consumers attitudinally into three separate groups: the 50-to-64 market, the 65-to-79 market and the 80-plus market. She adds that if the Association for the Advancement of Retired Persons didn't send out membership cards to Americans on their 50th birthday, the youngest group would never have been classified as "older Americans."
"Retirement isn't what it used to be," Corlett said. Not only are 50-plus consumers active with work, hobbies and volunteer activities, they are also caring for children, spouses, siblings, and parents, all of which contribute to a busy schedule.
"The 50-to-70 lifestyles are not that different from the 30-to-50 lifestyles," said Barry Moore, vice chairman of Kurt Salmon & Associates, an Atlanta-based retail consultancy. He said he believes that the much-publicized wave of baby boomers turning 50 "will have a smaller impact than people think," noting that of the 75 million consumers aged 50-plus in 2000, 40 million will be under 70 and will continue the same lifestyle they enjoyed when they were younger.
Vicki Thomas, principal at Thomas & Partners, Westport, Conn., a consultancy that helps companies target "the mid-life consumer," agrees that age 50 is not a magic number. She defines the "mature market" as 45 and up. This is when women, especially, face the new gerontological realities of their bodies, realize they can do nothing about that, and change their attitude into one of acceptance, Thomas said.
"People over 50 get reborn into nutrition," said Corlett, who points out that, previously, many baby boomers were junk food-loving couch potatoes.
"Fifty definitely awakens a sense of, 'Oh, my God, this is the only body I'm going to have,"' said Corlett. The fact that many are caring for their parents also gives them first-person experience with the effects of age.
According to The Roper Report, published by New York-based Roper Starch, 77% of 50-plus consumers place "a lot" or "a fair amount" of importance on taking the proper amount of vitamins and minerals to maintain their personal health and well-being, compared with 73% of the adult population overall. Fifty-seven percent of 50-plus adults said they did so regularly, vs. 45% of adults overall.
"We're not aging, we're just watching the number go up," said Marcia Mogelonsky, the Ithaca, N.Y.-based executive editor of Age Wave Report, Emeryville, Calif. "But we have a lot more aches and pains than we used to."
Although supermarkets have been among the most successful retail channels in attracting older consumers, most 50-plus shoppers do not view supermarkets as a destination for vitamins, herbs and supplements. According to Kalorama Information, New York, 10.8% of U.S. VSM shoppers purchase these products at supermarkets, placing that channel third after drug stores and mass merchants. Here are the preferences of the various age segments for VSM purchases: Consumers aged 65 and over are more likely than the average VSM consumer to shop at drug stores; those aged 55 to 64 are more likely to shop at drug stores, mass merchandisers or discount stores; and those aged 45 to 54 at mass merchandisers or discounters. Younger adults, aged 35 to 44, are more likely to shop for VSM items at supermarkets.
In its report, "Natural Products Census: Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Supplements," Bellevue, Wash.-based Hartman Group found that consumers aged 50 to 64 accounted for 14.3% of vitamin, mineral, herb and supplement purchases in supermarkets and those aged 65 and over for another 14.3%. Top vitamins and minerals purchased by 50-plus shoppers through supermarkets were multivitamins (where they accounted for 37.2% of purchases), calcium, vitamin E, vitamin C and vitamin B complex. Top herbs and supplements purchased by over-50 consumers through supermarkets were ginkgo (12.9% of purchases), garlic, green tea extract, echinacea and St. John's wort.
Linda Gilbert, president of HealthFocus, Des Moines, Iowa, points out consumers below the age of 50 seek products that will enhance their physical performance, while 50- to 70-year-olds turn to products that support mental acuity. After age 70, physical concerns, such as preventing broken bones in a fall, take over again. While there is no doubt that 50-plus consumers want to remain healthy or prevent further deterioration as they age, research shows that looking young is not a big concern. Roper Reports notes that 50-plus consumers are less likely than younger consumers to have used or to consider using agemark-covering cosmetics, hair coloring, wrinkle-preventing skin care or sun-tanning products, or hair-replenishing lotions.
Kalorama research supports these findings. For example, it reports that the heaviest users of facial moisturizers are females aged 35 to 44 (26.5% are considered heavy users), followed by women aged 45 to 54 (20.3%). Usage drops off after age 55.
"Women really don't want to fight [age] all the way," said Thomas. "They're happy with where they are in life." She describes a study by Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble, which interviewed 1,000 women about being 50 and found they were proud of their accomplishments and proud of their wrinkles. The survey helped P&G create and market a new Oil of Olay line extension, Oil of Olay Pro Vital.
Over-50 women have an interest in spirituality and holistic health, embracing an entire healthy physical and mental lifestyle that involves supplements, nutraceuticals, nutritional foods and exercise. "They really believe in the food-medicine connection," said Gilbert, noting that they buy not only for themselves but for their children, spouses and parents. This suggests possibilities for cross-merchandising and promotion across departments.