Midlife consumers spend more on active-nutrition products, but food companies need to hone their marketing to reach them

A new report from market researcher Murphy Research says that you can’t market food products to midlife consumers, those aged 35-54, the same way you would to millennials or older adults.

Midlife health and wellness consumers, those aged 35-54, may watch trends and also be concerned about aging, but food companies can’t market to these consumers the same way they would to Millennials or to older adults. These are the findings of a new report from Murphy Research (Santa Monica, CA) based on an ongoing survey the company conducted on 1000 U.S. respondents per month, with data from the current report covering the time period of July 2018 to December 2021.

The report, titled “State of Our Health: Health & Wellness at Midlife,” found that midlife consumers present ripe opportunity for brands because this demographic spends more on food and fitness compared to both older and younger generations. However, midlife consumers are also seeing their health and wellness needs transition and thus require special consideration by marketers.

The report states that although midlife consumers are increasingly concerned about the impacts of aging, age-related health impediments are still not yet their primary focus. “Today’s midlife consumers aren’t yet completely motivated by physical health concerns, so communications focused on older adults likely won’t resonate.” Instead, midlife consumers are often balancing busy schedules while raising families. As such, the report states, “Likely more effective are claims around boosting energy and mood through quality, clean ingredients, and positive nutrition.” The report adds: “Midlife consumers are more motivated by age-related concerns like weight, longevity, and prevention, but they are a bit distinctive in looking for boosts in energy, mood, and sleep quality.” Midlife consumers are also more likely than older consumers to pay attention to ingredients.

Midlife consumers also “are much less set and sure of their ways compared to older adults” and are open to new information about health. They also aren’t as likely to consume something unpleasant just because it’s good for them. Instead, these consumers are seeking “balance—including pleasure, nutrition, ingredients, and pleasing a family—they need solutions that solve multiple needs,” the report states. They still value food for pleasure, it says.

Midlife consumers are also aware of nutrition trends but will only adopt them if the trend suits their need. “Midlife consumers take their cues from younger ones when it comes to nutrition, but they’re more experienced,” the report says. “Nutrition solutions must fit their lives and needs, rather than the other way around.”

On the plus side, midlife is an age when consumers begin focusing on nutrition, even more so than fitness, the report says. Midlife customers are also a key category for food brands because, “with higher incomes and more stable employment than either younger or older adults, they spend more on fitness and nutrition.”

Marketers should also keep in mind that Millennials will age into midlife consumers eventually, and as such, “As more Millennials enter their midlife years, brands need to adjust their Millennial strategies to speak to their changing needs.”

Finally, with 1 in 4 midlife consumers shopping for groceries online, “it’s critical to make sure products are where midlife consumers can see them, both online and in-store,” the report concludes