COVID-19 sparks immunity interest and innovation

“In Tune with Immune” is one of the top 2021 trends identified by Innova Market Insights. Ongoing anxiety stemming from COVID-19 is expected to encourage consumers to prioritize immune health, including immunity-boosting foods and beverages.

The global pandemic has moved the functional nutrition consumer spotlight from performance benefits such as energy into immune health, as consumers seek ways to strengthen their body’s resistance against COVID-19. Although the science behind boosting nutrition to boost immunity is not well-established, consumer interest is strong and growing. Over one-third of global consumers surveyed say they were more concerned about immune health in 2020 than in 2019. Anxiety caused by COVID-19 has pushed consumers toward looking for products to support their immune health. A high percentage of consumers, led by those in Asia and Latin America, are educating themselves on ingredients and procedures that can boost their immune health.

Manufacturers face pressure to market the immune benefits of their products in a clear, believable, and substantiated way. While consumers widely agree that a healthy diet can build immunity against illness and disease, they are not as certain that functional foods for immunity are effective. In France, for example, only one-quarter of respondents believe that functional foods have a connection to immunity. As research catches up with the trend, manufacturers will have more proof that their products work.

Asia and Latin America may be the best regions for new product launches. High percentages of consumers there are concerned about immune health, believe in the relationship between functional products and immunity, and perceive that products for immune health are effective. In Indonesia, for example, although residents are highly interested in boosting their immunity, the growth rate in products with immune benefits is particularly low.

Immune health benefits currently are concentrated in several categories, namely sports products, soft drinks, foods and beverages for babies and kids, and supplements. Users of sports nutrition products seek better performance in all aspects of their life, and sports products with immune health claims are growing rapidly. Within soft drinks, fermented beverages such as kombucha tout their immune health credentials. Products for infants and young children focus on gut health ingredients, namely probiotic bacterial cultures and prebiotic fibers, that help strengthen the immune system – the gut is a main source of protection against harmful organisms.

Dairy is a category to watch. Penetration of immune health claims is low but growth is robust in fermented dairy products and dairy alternatives, including spoonable yogurts and yogurt drinks. As consumers seek ways to stay healthy by boosting their immune system, they are likely to be attracted to the dual gut health and immune health benefits in this category.

When considering ingredients and flavors, keep it simple. Over half of survey respondents choose honey as an immune-boosting flavor, followed by ginger, vegetables, tea and turmeric.

“COVID-19 – Impact on Consumer Health” is a new Consumer Insider report from Innova Market Insights, which brings together consumer research, market sizes, company analysis and a review of new product trends and activity to demonstrate just how the picture has been changing and to suggest where the future opportunities can be found.

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