Identifying elements of a ready-to-eat meal desired by older adults

Food Res Int. 2022 Jul:157:111353. doi: 10.1016/j.foodres.2022.111353. Epub 2022 May 11.


The population of older adults is rapidly growing, and undernutrition remains a concern. Properly formulated ready to eat (RTE) meals can provide older adults with convenient, nutritious meals that require minimal preparation. The study objective of this work was to uncover which properties and components of RTE meals were most important to older adults. 285 participants (mean age = 68.3 years) from Canada (n = 167) and the United States (n = 118) completed a two-part online survey. First, demographic information, including oral health survey and medication history was gathered. Rating-based conjoint analysis was then employed to identify RTE meal preferences. Meal ideas (n = 24) were created via a half-factorial design comprised of four concepts: taste theme (Asian, Latin, Mediterranean), protein source (chicken, fish, alternative protein, egg), spice (presence/absence), and fiber source (grains/vegetables). Participants indicated their expected liking and purchase intent of each meal idea. Results from the oral health survey found significant correlations between age and medication intake (R = 0.219, p = 0.0002), and frequencies of loss of taste and loss of smell (R = 0.800, p < 0.0001). Regarding meal components, protein source had the greatest importance to the total population (relative importance = 51.5%) with chicken having the greatest positive influence on liking (utility value = 0.31). A greater preference for the Mediterranean taste theme was observed in the Canadian respondents (p = 0.0002). Segmentation of the full dataset revealed four clusters based on relative importance of meal components. Cluster 1 (n = 25) contained participants preferring the presence of chicken and not fish, Cluster 2 (n = 190) was positively affected by the inclusion of chicken and fish, Cluster 3 (n = 42) contained individuals negatively affected by the presence of spice, and Cluster 4 (n = 23) contained individuals who preferred vegetarian options. In future research, meals that contain chicken or are vegetarian-friendly will be pursued.

Keywords: Meal development; Older adult; Survey.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Canada
  • Chickens
  • Fast Foods*
  • Humans
  • Meals*
  • Taste
  • United States
  • Vegetables