Japan’s Kewpie Corporation—which began selling its awesome mayo in 1925, and then canned baby food in 1960—is now targeting the elderly residents of Japan with its newest product. According to Reuters, the company sees an opportunity opening up in rapidly-ageing Japan “as parents who brought kids up on Kewpie approach their sunset years.”

Called “Gentle Menu,” this new food line comes in pouches, and features smoothed-out versions of Japanese favorites like beef sukiyaki. If you’re having difficulty chewing or swallowing, but crave some savory goodness you remember from when you were younger, Gentle Menu might just be for you.

gentle menu

Photo: Rakuten Global Market

Kewpie is currently known in Japan for both its baby food and its mayonnaise made with rice vinegar—the latter is a product chef Ivan Orkin can’t live without. While the Gentle Menu line of products isn’t turning a profit yet, Kewpie estimates that it currently owns 70 percent of the market for stewed, easy-to-eat foods for elderly people in Japan. This isn’t entirely surprising—one in four Japanese people is currently over the age of 65. 

That number is only going to grow. Market research firm Fuji Keizai says that market has nearly doubled in the last four years alone. The firm estimates that the elderly market could potentially be worth tens of billions of dollars in coming years. Japan’s biggest diaper maker, Unicharm Corporation, said that sales of adult diapers topped those of baby diapers for the first time ever in 2012.

Kewpie healthcare food unit head Tsutomu Morota told Reuters

What we need to do is to make it easier for consumers to access our goods by securing stores that sell our products. We need to work on direct marketing, which includes home deliveries. We want to strengthen our brand by introducing it into various places, like nursing homes and restaurants.”

Part of the key ingredient to successful marketing of Gentle Menu seems to be packaging. In the 1980s, Kewpie tried marketing a similar product for elderly people, but made the mistake of keeping it in the same jars they used for the baby food line. While everyone knows that eventually chewing won’t be easy, no one wants to feel like a baby.

Creating good, nutritious food that elderly people want to eat is challenging for any company. As we age, both our senses of taste and smell start to deteriorate. Think about it. You probably don’t like all the same foods you liked when you were a kid. If you’re lucky, you may have discovered new tastes that appeal to you now that you hated back then. The process continues throughout your life, so those are needs that companies like Kewpie are seeking to address.

Food manufacturing industry publication FoodNavigator stresses that modifying a food’s texture to make it more appealing to elderly consumers is something that food manufacturers worldwide need to start seriously considering. Texture is something that can make or break how you view a particular eating experience—whether you’re chewing or not.

It seems to us like Kewpie is on the right track. Babies need food, everyone loves mayo, and your grandma wants to eat something that tastes good, too. Also, the name “Gentle Menu” sounds like your food is about to give you a hug.

[via ReutersBon Appétit, FoodNavigator]