For decades, Nestle SA has tried to get its infant milk powder into the hands of China’s new mothers with promises of brighter, healthier babies. Now it’s trying to do the same for the elderly.
Last week, the company launched “Nestle YIYANG Fuel for brain senior milk powder,” a formula designed to help China’s seniors “refuel their brains and start a new smart life.”
The announcement didn’t get quite the hype that products targeted to China’s millennials do. But it may yet prove more consequential. With 222 million people over age 60, China is home to the world’s largest population of seniors, and their economic clout is set to surge in the years ahead. By one estimate, the value of products and services geared toward them may reach 33% of gross domestic product by 2050.
If that trend holds, caring for seniors will be China’s dominant industry by the middle of the century, and old folks will be its defining demographic. That presents plenty of challenges for the government — but also some major opportunities for business.
Seniors are already playing a key role in shifting China’s economy away from exports and toward consumption. Fan Min, president of China’s biggest online travel site, predicts they’ll be the primary drivers of the country’s tourism market within a decade. About 5 million of them are traveling overseas annually, with that number expected to more than double by 2030. As they venture out, the travel industry is adjusting to their demands (by offering more group tours and cheaper accommodations, for example). And it’s not just tourism: In recent years, businesses ranging from car companies to online marketplaces have built features marketed to China’s elderly.