The term "baby boomers" refers to the generation born between approximately 1936 and 1964, while the next group in line is the "X" generation that includes those born more or less between 1965 and 1981. Mintel has identified one subsection of US baby boomers - those aged 55 to 64 - as particularly fast growing and set to surpass 80 million by 2012.
This presents particular market opportunities for the makers of functional foods and dietary supplements as baby boomers are increasingly worried about their health and take prevention of illness into their own hands.
"Baby boomers drive the nutraceutical market in the sense that they are the generation who is most likely to demand control over the course of their medical care," trend forecaster Suzy Badaracco told NutraIngredients-USA. "All age groups are driving their own sections of the market, but the baby boomers are the biggest and most vocal group."
Suzy Badaracco runs the firm Culinary Tides out of Oregon and utilizes the unusual combination of her background in criminology and nutrition to track and predict the movements of the food industry for major clients.
"There may be more of a movement away from pharmaceuticals and towards functional foods and supplements," predicted Badaracco of baby boomer trends.
According to the forecaster, the baby boomer generation will always opt for a dietary supplement over a drug if they believe it will work for them.
However, these products have to be marketed in a very sensitive manner, because baby boomers are averse to ageism and stereotyping. Not that they want to avoid aging, said Badaracco.
"They want to feel younger and look good for the age they're at. They want to age gracefully."
To date, food manufacturers have tried to avoid stereotyping baby boomers by using energetic branding concepts and slogans such as 'vital' and 'active', according to market analyst Mintel.
Unlike 'GenX' who want convenience and entertainment above all, baby boomers want their products to be stylish and to tap into their deeper values, said Badaracco.
"Baby boomers are driving certain sections of nutraceutical markets that suit their needs, but 'X-geners' are driving the whole cosmeceutical end of it ."
As such, what works with baby boomers will not necessarily work for GenX-ers when they reach the same age. But for now, it is baby boomers who have the market power that should in theory be spurring food companies - often run by baby boomers themselves - to zone in on their needs.
"Baby boomers are heading the companies. They have the clout, the money and the technology."
As such, it is baby boomers themselves who are often setting the nutraceutical research agenda, said Badaracco, yet perhaps not effectively tapping into the full marketing potential the category offers.
Mintel highlighted in a recent report that there is still room for growth in the development of further lines for cholesterol-reducing products or those with DHA for brain health.
The bulk of new food and drink products targeted at 'middle age' consumers, according to Mintel, have been directed at menopausal women. These products include foods containing soy isoflavones, marketed to help ease the symptoms of menopause.
So while the very combination of the health-promoting characteristics of nutraceuticals and the desire for control of health in the baby boomer generation would appear to be a match made in heaven, manufacturers make need to be a little more creative in order to maximise this relationship.