BELLEVUE, WASH. — Baby boomers are becoming more concerned about health and wellness as the result of life events, according to a new study by The Hartman Group, "Changing Food Consumption Among Baby Boomers: Looking Five Years Into the Future."
As a result, baby boomers are leading the way in many health and wellness trends, the study found. Other findings of the study included common perceptions among baby boomers and spending patterns.
"Regardless of any particular wellness orientation, we found that boomers feel that their health has taken on more importance as they have aged," said Laurie Demeritt, president and chief operating officer for The Hartman Group. "They are likely to reference a cumulative health knowledge that is ‘out there’ and they can either adhere to it or avoid it, but they cannot deny awareness of it."
Events that often trigger an interest in health and wellness include physical changes such as weight gain, menopause, acid reflux, insomnia, osteoporosis, achy joints or stiff muscles or the inability to run or walk as they could when they were younger. Other triggers include health scares such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, thyroid issues, heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis or Alzheimer’s. Watching a loved one go through a health scare or die a preventable death also may be a trigger. A final trigger may be awareness of genetic predispositions to certain diseases.
Subsequently, baby boomers are beginning to pay attention to how foods make them feel. When they make note of how foods affect their health, they often share this information with friends. With this also comes a focus on moderation, meal planning, portion control and cooking for scratch, the Hartman Group study found.
One of the biggest health concerns baby boomers have is weight management — weight control is believed to be important to staying young and healthy.
A common mentality among baby boomers is labeling foods good or bad, with bad foods being high in fat, calories, cholesterol and sodium. This group also sees eating out and trying new foods and flavors as a part of healthy living.
Fresh foods are essential to this segment’s idea of eating healthy, and they perceive fresh foods with perishable ingredients as healthier, the study suggested. Overall, fresh foods are considered to be foods grown locally, made from scratch or purchased in bulk from a farmer’s market. Specifically, unpackaged foods are considered to be most fresh. Baby boomers also perceive fresh poultry, nuts and soups to be important for a healthy diet.
The study also identified four categories of food preferences among boomers — indulgences, packaging, new flavors and specialty retailers.
According to the study, baby boomers believe they need indulgences — something extra, unhealthy and special — every once in a while to help themselves feel good. They also notice packaging and make decisions based on unusual or simple design, resonant or targeted messaging. Even lack of packaging may be appealing in an effort to reduce waste and be environmentally friendly.
Boomers are open to trying new flavors, varieties and specialty health options. With the emphasis on specialty items comes increased shopping at stores such as Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe’s. Such alternative and new avenues of food products often contribute to a feeling of "discovering" a new understanding or appreciation for food.
In terms of shopping, baby boomers are affected by this increased commitment to health and wellness and gradual shifts in time flexibility. The more time they have, the more they explore alternative options. Overall, baby boomers are showing interest in eating out and traveling.
While boomers are enjoying specialty stores, they continue to shop at traditional grocery stores. However, they often cross-shop, identifying and initially purchasing products in specialty stores, but buying these products on a regular basis at grocery stores where they are perceived to be less expensive.
Baby boomers are the generation born between 1946 and 1964 — a category that includes 79 million people with an estimated annual spending of around $2 trillion.