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  • Seniors taking a selfie

    Know how to talk to seniors?

    02 July 2019Par Ambre Huerre Paitry
    Latest news & trends in food & drink

    Seniors are a true challenge for brands, who, truth be told, have relatively poor knowledge of this target.



    Senior couple shopping for groceries

    In France and around the globe, while Millennials remain at the heart of food brands’ strategies, it is in fact the senior segment that devotes the largest budget to food and beverage purchases.

    By 2050, seniors will account for 22% of the world’s population, and it has become vital to understand what is at stake and to identify communication opportunities targeting this age category. 



    “Senior”: a catch-all term



    Like Millennials, seniors cannot be boiled down to a mere age category. This is perhaps because in addition to the consumer habits specific to their generations (Baby Boomers vs. the generation born before 1940) factors such as health condition, income level and type of household – i.e. seniors living alone or with others – must be taken into account. Though marketing professionals often lump them together under the vague term “seniors”, it is a combination of age category, lifestyle and culture that determines their consumption of food products.


    Based on this observation, we decided to carry out a study on people 65 and older in Japan, Germany and France. Indeed, these three markets are particularly affected by the aging of their populations, with the share of seniors nearing or exceeding 20% compared to 9% on average worldwide. This has caught the attention of brands, which are now just starting to redefine seniors.



    What seniors are thinking


    We can see that the perception of food varies depending on the country and culture: 61% of the European seniors interviewed take pleasure in eating whereas in Japan eating is seen above all as a means of staying healthy (according to 86% of the respondents).


    Beyond this initial observation, nuances were also highlighted between France, where this pleasure also involves sharing, and Germany, where logistical constraints are a key consideration. Spending around 2 hours 13 minutes a day on meals, the French are the world champions in terms of time taken at the dinner table, a figure that is not at all surprising when we consider the fact that sharing and enjoyment are pillars of the “Gastronomic Meal of the French” as recognized in UNESCO’s list of world intangible heritage. Fruits on a table


    Even more striking, there is a clear shift in Germany from eating for pleasure to eating to stay healthy at around 70 years of age.


    When looking for inspiration to cook a meal or find the ideal restaurant, 49% of the seniors interviewed in the three countries prefer using Internet as their main resource. This penchant for screens is even more common in Japan, where television is the second most frequently used source of information mentioned. Another noteworthy finding specific to France concerns food labels. In France, namely with the introduction of the Nutriscore labelling system and the growing demand for transparency with regard to product origin and composition, senior consumers pay significantly more attention to labels than do their counterparts in the other two countries.



    How brand content is perceived


    On the whole, 66% of seniors feel that advertising shows them in a positive light, but perceptions vary depending on the country. In France, 38% of seniors feel that they are shown as people who “like to pass down traditions” and 37% believe they are depicted as “having experience”. As well, 25% claim they are portrayed as being less autonomous.


    These notions of handing down traditions and having experience are often capitalized on by brands, which frequently use images of seniors who are seasoned veterans at the art of cooking. Intergenerational discussions and interactions are also a way of bringing together younger people and senior consumers, targeting the latter in a more flattering way.


    With its “So Classic, So In.” campaign that ended in 2018, Pineau des Charentes aimed to freshen up its outmoded image in Belgium with help from Sopexa. The new concept was based on storytelling that featured a mother and her son enjoying the drink in different ways in a variety of situations, showing that the spirit could adapt to every generation.




    In Japan, seniors are viewed in a more serene light. Age is perceived differently, namely because seniors remain very active and the country’s healthy life expectancy is the highest in the world. Above all, Japanese seniors project an image of being free, uninhibited and experienced. Only 3% of the Japanese respondents feel that seniors are depicted as less autonomous people.


    Nonetheless, 73% of the respondents in the three countries feel that they are often stereotyped in advertising. This feeling is even greater in France, shared by 80% of the seniors interviewed. It is clear that the way seniors are shown in advertising varies greatly between countries.



    Time for a change


    The aging of the population is a worldwide challenge that must allow us to change our mindset and adopt a more relaxed approach. Food brands that wish to target seniors would be wise to find solutions tailored to each market in order to win over these consumers. To home in on this market, Japan can be a source of inspiration, but it is also essential to be accurate in terms of content and portrayals. In search of an enhanced, more modern image, seniors wish to be targeted in a way that reflects what they really are!



    Informations collected from Claire MAURICE, Corporate Market Intelligence Manager at Sopexa


    Claire Maurice

    In charge of market research and analysis, Claire has 16 years of experience in market intelligence project management in the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry. She carries out in-house monitoring programmes in order to identify local influencers, behaviours and trends.