Anti-ageing food boom

London:Foods designed to help slow ageing are exploding onto the European market, with mainstream manufacturers confirming that the trend may be here to stay.

Antioxidants are thought to fight the ageing process caused by damaging free radicals, and although some scientists disagree with this theory, food makers are increasingly positioning antioxidant-rich products towards those concerned about wrinkles or age-related conditions.
The last six months has seen a flurry of launches marketed with references to anti-ageing, including dairy products, chocolate bars, breads and hot and cold beverages.

“We are seeing more of these products in Europe than anywhere else,” Lucy Cornford, research analyst at Mintel.

Europeans, increasingly interested in taking an active approach to their health, are also aware of the growing life expectancy and are looking to ensure better quality of life when older.

Yet although elderly people are set to make up a quarter of the total European population by 2020, food makers have not previously directed much new product development towards this group.

In the last year however the tide seems to have turned. In May leading dairy group Parmalat introduced a range of dairy products on the domestic market under the brand name ‘Jeunesse’, clearly targeting women aged 35-44 years old.

A milk, dairy-based fruit drink, yoghurt and dessert all contain the antioxidant CoQ10, more commonly found in anti-wrinkle creams.

“This is the first example from a mainstream company,” said Cornford.

“Antioxidant vitamins have long been added to food products but companies are making a bigger deal of this now,” she added. “Companies are really working on the assumption that the consumer knows about antioxidants and links them to anti-ageing.”

Chocolate makers were among the first to counter the unhealthy image of confectionery with the natural antioxidants found in the main ingredient, cocoa.

Belgian firm New Tree promotes the rich polyphenol content on its products, while GermanyÂ’s Sarotti also highlights the antioxidant levels of the Purpur range introduced in March.

Another product using the concerns about ageing to counter an unhealthy image, is the anti-ageing beer developed by the Neuzeller Kloster brewery in Germany. It contains flavonoids, said to improve the skinÂ’s elasticity, spirulina, iron and vitamins A and D, also known to benefit the skin.

Germany appears to be one of the biggest markets for anti-ageing products, related to its strong ‘wellness’ trend. The ‘Fit for Fun’ brand launched a bread developed by Pema called Powerbread last year, which contains amaranth and sprouts to help slow ageing.

A rapeseed oil fortified with CoQ10 has also been introduced under the same brand, manufactured by Teutoburger Olmuhle.

In the US, where companies tend to take more risks with claims, EccoBella Botanicals’ is offering a range under the Health by Chocolate brand, said to be ‘the most decadent way to soft, smooth, luxurious skin’.

However while Parmalat’s range makes direct references to anti-ageing, most European firms are merely relying on the consumer’s awareness of antioxidants.

“This trend is almost 100 per cent about marketing and positioning rather than new ingredients. We have seen products being relaunched with new packaging to highlight the antioxidant content for example,” added Cornford.

“But it will come up more and more. If mainstream companies are willing to put their money behind it, it suggests that these products are doing well.”