However far-fetched Cambridge-based scientist Aubrey De Gray's recent claims that developments in gene research could see humans live to be more than 1,000 years old or more in this life time might be, it is an inescapable truth that the older populations in developed countries are rapidly growing. This is developing an increasing number of new opportunities in the anti-ageing category, which many cosmetics companies are starting to pick up on.
Anti-ageing products tend to focus on skin care, where anti-wrinkle cosmetics are now taking the market by storm. Euromonitor International estimated that the total market for skincare products is valued at $38.3 billion globally, a figure that is second only to the hair care sector.
In terms of growth, the figures for skin care storm well ahead of any other in the cosmetics industry. In the period 2002 to 2003, it was by far the fastest growing sector, with global growth running at 6.7 per cent.
However, breaking this down for products specific to the anti-ageing market, the figures are even more dramatic. For products that target specific age-related conditions, the global market was estimated at $6.9 billion in 2003, indicating a growth rate of 11.4 per cent.
"The anti-ageing skincare category has provided double digit growth rates every year since 1998," said Claire Briney, head of Euromonitor's global cosmetics and toiletries research programme. "Indeed all of this has occurred despite the devaluation of the dollar and difficult economic conditions in many markets during this period."
Briney also points out that as this category matures, there is beginning to be a clear division of the types of anti-ageing products being aimed at younger and older consumers.
"Traditionally, the largest segment has been geared towards younger consumers, often younger than 40, who are experiencing the first signs of skin ageing," said Briney. "The key to products in this category has been prevention, rather than cure in the age old battle to fight back the years.
"However, in parallel with the growth of this segment, the market for products specifically aimed at older consumers is also starting to develop. Products in this sector tend to be more expensive and rely on scientific backing. This contrasts with products for younger markets, where a more natural and holistic approach to products tends to prevail."
Leading players in the mature skin category currently include Lancome, Jean D'Aveze and Vichy, who are all playing to consumers that are increasingly open to the possibilities of anti-ageing cosmetic products. This is being further boosted by the fact that many of the baby boomer generation are now falling into this mature category. These consumers are more affluent and also increasingly aware of their appearance.
Briney points out that, with the maturation of the anti-ageing category, further divisions are likely to occur. The emergence of skincare products especially aimed at men is also a rapid growth segment.
"The grouping for men's skincare products is becoming increasingly sophisticated," Briney said. "It is still low presentation at the present time and is focused on the younger age bracket, but mature consumers will probably be the next step."