Low-income, older Americans tend to have less healthy diets, survey finds
Low-income people 50 and older face additional challenges in eating healthfully and keeping up physical activity, according to a new survey from the International Food Information Council Foundation and the AARP Foundation.
The report found that just 31% of low-income Americans older than 50 said their eating habits are better than 20 years ago, compared to 39% of everyone in the age group. And only 19% of the low-income respondents said their physical activity level was high, compared to 29% of all adults older than 50.
The online survey involved 1,032 Americans aged 50 and older with annual household incomes of less than $35,000. The research looked into their views on health and nutrition, as well as the obstacles they face in making positive changes.
Other takeaways from this online survey are that older low-income consumers don't have enough information to design their diet to achieve a healthy outcome. More than one-third (36%) couldn't identify a food or nutrient to help them deal with a major health concern, compared to 24% of higher-income respondents.
Half of the lower-income survey respondents said it wasn't easy to have a healthy diet, while 41% of those with more income said the same. The main factors making it difficult to eat more healthfully were cost (57% of low-income older adults vs. 44% of older adults with more income), accessibility (16% vs. 10%), physical ability (16% vs. 9%) and knowledge (12% vs. 8%).
Fact-based motivational messages about the importance of a balanced diet to better health were more appealing to lower-income older people, while higher-income people found emotional appeals more convincing.
This information may provide food manufacturers with useful information to help them market products and related health information to older Americans. Alex Lewin-Zwerdling, vice-president of research and partnerships for the International Food Information Council, told Food Navigator that the study noted nearly 90% of the low-income 50-plus population believes strongly, or somewhat strongly, that it's never too late to change eating and lifestyle habits.
Related marketing messages can be targeted to these older consumers to maximize outreach efforts, she added. "There is an enormous opportunity to improve the diets of Americans over 50. These consumers value health and they are motivated to eat well. But it's important to understand why Americans over 50 are motivated," she told the trade publication.
For food and beverage makers wanting to attract consumers to better-for-you products, probiotics, functional foods and other items designed to enhance health, this could be a golden opportunity to help lower-income older adults — and older adults in general — live longer and feel better.
According to Euromonitor International's Top 10 Global Consumer Trends for 2017, about one-quarter of the planet's population is 50 or older, and many of them are interested in wellness in general. This aging consumer base is contributing to the "longevity economy," and these people are influential shoppers.
The study's findings provide a good reminder that when it comes to nutrition-focused offerings, food and beverage manufacturers shouldn't zero in on millennials alone. With the right research and marketing campaign, older consumers could also prove to be a lucrative growth opportunity. Brands could try and capture this demographic's attention with on-pack claims about the ingredients these shoppers most care about, or adjacent signage that provides information about how certain products can improve health.