The nutritional needs of ageing and sick people will be addressed by a new division within NZMP, the ingredients business of Fonterra.

Called the Medical Nutrition and Healthy Ageing division, it will accelerate research and development and form partnerships with innovative partners to find highly-specialised ingredients.

As people live longer, age-related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease were becoming more prevalent.

NZMP said malnutrition was not only a developing-world problem, because many people suffered from loss of appetite or gastro-intestinal disorders.

NZMP intended to deliver high-quality nutrition with products such as protein powders mixed into soups or drinks or compact yoghurts that people could swallow easily.

The quality of life for people facing or undergoing treatment for cancer could be improved with products to help them stay strong for chemotherapy.

A lack of mobility could significantly affect quality of life and protein was key to retaining and building muscle, especially with age.

Maintaining muscle mass was particularly important for bed-bound patients, facing the loss of about 1kg of muscle for every week in hospital. There was also a desire for people to extend middle age and seek out products that improved their wellbeing, such as food and drinks fortified with extra nutrients to address specific health needs and help them stay stronger for longer.

NZMP said it would draw on many years of R&D into protein products that fostered health and activity.

Population forecasting said there would be more than two billion people aged 65 and older by 2050.

Already, 27% of Japanese were in that age bracket, and 15% of New Zealanders.