This plant-based food startup targets seniors instead of millennials

While some plant-based food brands focus on younger consumers–Oatly, for example, talks about the “post-milk generation” that drinks its vegan oat milk–one new startup is targeting an overlooked demographic: people over 50.

Perennial, from one of the founders of the plant-based food company Beyond Meat, launched today with a non-dairy drink designed for gut, brain, and bone health for older consumers. (The name comes from the demographic; sociologists refer to Boomers and their parents as perennials.) One driver “was a lot of frustration around the fact that this is a very forgotten demographic in food and beverage,” says Brent Taylor, who left Beyond Meat in 2016 to begin working on the new product with cofounder Sara Bonham.

Only 1% of global innovation (and 10% of marketing spend) targets adults over 50, says Bonham, despite the fact that it is the fastest-growing consumer demographic, and the majority of older consumers say that healthy food and drink is a priority. Both founders had seen that their own parents were interested in plant-based options. “We also just really want to create a better world for ourselves to age into,” says Bonham.

Some products already on the market like Ensure and Boost, which are designed to help replace meals, haven’t changed much since they launched in the 1970s. “There’s a new generation of people that are aging better and working longer,” Bonham says. Perennial’s drink is designed for people who still eat full meals and are looking for a supplement to an already-healthy diet. The drink has a blend of four plant proteins to make a “complete” protein like animal protein, so that it can be digested well; it has as much protein as 2% dairy milk. For bone health, it includes ingredients like a prebiotic fiber that helps aid calcium absorption. For muscle health, the blend of plant proteins provides amino acids. An algae-based ingredient and vitamins target brain health.

The products will be sold online, in part because the consumers that the company is targeting may not be shopping in the adult nutrition section in stores. “We can innovate quickly and learn from the consumer fast before entering stores,” Bonham says. It will later launch new products. “This is just the beginning for us,” she says. “We really want to create a better world where folks can age into and harness the endless possibilities of plants using science, research, data, and food and sensory [experiences] to really innovate for healthy aging. It’s never been a better time than right now.”

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