Britain's over-55s will be the dominant consumer demographic in a few years - but marketers are still failing to address their needs.

A new study from Reuters Business Insight, based on data from TNS, predicts that by 2006 senior consumers will account for over half of all expenditure on food, beverages and household goods - some £53 billion ($89.8bn; €77.5bn) from an estimated total of £104.4bn.

However, the youth-oriented marketing industry is failing to keep up. The survey found that just one in six over-55s say they purchase a brand frequently because it has been advertised, while 60% claim to skip through the ads on programmes they have on video. One-third of senior consumers enjoy trying new brands, compared with 43% of their younger counterparts.

Received wisdom has it that older consumers are more brand loyal than impressionable twentysomethings, but the study found that over-55s are only slightly more likely than under-55s to keep buying a brand they like.

Popular choices among senior Britons include established products such as PG Tips, Tetley Tea, Kit Kat and Silver Spoon. Reuters also identified a number of 'age-neutral' brands such as Persil, McVitie's and Hovis. This market, it argues, will be fiercely fought in the future.

"Just as with the mainstream market, the ‘grey’ market is fragmenting rapidly," commented RBI consumer analyst Ben Longman. "For marketers, the consumer's age is only important in the context of other considerations such as consumer health, attitudes, disposable income and lifestyle. Marketers still have much to learn about senior consumers, and manufacturers have a lot to gain from getting it right."

Data sourced from: Daily Research News Online; additional content by WARC staff