Macphie | Insight | Elderly

by Diane Cosgrove

Catering for vulnerable adults in care home settings involves a complex balancing act.

The strict government regulations on the nutritional value of food must be balanced with making meals that the residents want to eat regularly.

This is a lot to ask a busy chef who may work alone in a care home kitchen.

Devising menus that give the requisite nutrition can cut down on the time available to prepare the meals.


Is there a more efficient way to prepare nutritionally fortified food?

Macphie was asked by a care home operator to develop a fortified product.

Elderly people are often deficient in several vitamins, so fortified food is a gentle means of enhancing their vitamin intake and avoiding conditions such as osteoporosis.

The meal has to be easy to make and consistently look and taste the same to give the residents confidence in eating.

As residents are often vulnerable to a choking condition called dysphagia, food has to be easy to eat.


Paul McKnight is Product Design Manager at Macphie, heading up the team at its Glenbervie headquarters that develops new products or adapts existing ones to meet specific client needs.

“As they also struggle to consume enough calories to see them through the day, the energy density of the products had to be considered.

“The team then looked at foods elderly people often eat.

“There is no point in making something that residents would find difficult or unpleasant to eat, as we don’t want someone to try the food, not enjoy it and refuse to eat it again.

“We want to tempt them to eat that bit more.”


There was a period of trial and error, looking at different types of food that could be fortified.

Light, easily digestible food was most suitable for frail elderly residents.

Paul explained there were other health considerations too.

“We had to factor in dysphagia and the constituency of the product, but we also had to ensure that the resident wouldn’t drop the food.

“Since medical conditions can leave residents with unstable grip, we needed food that wouldn’t spill like a liquid, but was soft and easy to eat.”

Paul’s team decided on a mousse.  They created it in nostalgic flavours of butterscotch, vanilla and chocolate, to encourage residents to eat.

Being soft, the mousse was less likely to cause dysphagia and wouldn’t slip off the spoon.

It was nutritionally balanced to ensure that even if the resident had only a few spoonfuls, they would be getting more of the vitamins and calories required.

Paul was very pleased with the result.

“The mousse was a tasty way for residents to get the vitamins they needed with minimal risk of dysphagia,” he said.


The product development team also looked at how to fortify the perennial staple, bread.

Paul explained why they chose bread.

“We also fortified our bread mix, which enabled the home to bake fortified bread on their own premises.

“When the residents have a slice of bread, they are getting extra vitamins and calories.”

This meant that an elderly person who might not be hungry or willing to eat, could have a piece of toast that was still helping to give them the vitamins and calories they needed in a very cost-effective way.

Costings are always factored in by Paul’s team.

“We understand that care homes and residential facilities are caring organisations, but they are subject to the financial constraints we all face,” he said.

“The fortified bread mix was a way to provide a solution to the fortified food requirements, but without putting pressure on their budget.”


The team is continually working on the nutritional content of Macphie products, including ways to reduce sugar without reducing the taste.

Paul said, “Macphie is committed to innovation and we enjoy the challenge of adapting our existing range or developing new products to meet the market’s requirements.”

As the population continues to age, demand for fortified foods is sure to increase.

If you would like to discuss catering for care homes or for people with particular needs, please contact Macphie on 0800 085 9800.