Coronavirus fueling the immunity awareness of consumers
15 May 2020
COVID-19 has fueled consumers immunity awareness
Consumers have made it clear that they do not want to wait for the negative effects of ageing or previous poor health decisions to take effect before taking action to reinforce their health.
For example, 59% of UK consumers who have purchased health food products bought them to improve their general health.
Consumers, particularly the growing ‘healthy agers’ market, are focusing more on preventative health and undoing past negative health choices. In Canada, 54% of consumers aged 65+ agree that improving their health is a top priority over the next five years.
Meanwhile, 48% of US consumers aged 65+ wish they could redo past choices that have negatively impacted their health. Preparing oneself for a longer, healthier lifespan is particularly relevant as consumers view health and wellness as an ongoing pursuit.
Consumers are more aware and knowledgeable about the importance of healthy eating for immunity protection. A healthy immune system is an important part of healthy aging.
Nutrition and lifestyle play critical roles in balancing the immune system response and reducing the incidence of immune related illnesses.
COVID-19 has accelerated consumers’ immunity consciousness
The COVID-19 crisis is making today’s consumers more aware than ever before about immune health, how to protect against disease, and what it means to be more vulnerable to illness.
As people around the globe brace for and respond to COVID-19, food and drink products that offer immune system support will appeal to consumers looking for ways to protect themselves.
In Singapore, demand for vitamin C and multivitamins have increased following the outbreak of COVID-19.
Local supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice said demand for health supplements like vitamin C and multivitamins has risen by “three to five times.” And Indonesians are stocking up on jamu, a traditional medicine made from natural ingredients.
The hoarding of jamu ingredients has resulted in the surge in the prices of herbs and plants such as jahe merah (red ginger) and temulawak (Javanese ginger).
People are turning to food for immunity benefits
Functional food and drink products have an opportunity to help consumers support their immune systems by giving them the nutrition they need to stay healthy. Some consumers are already turning to functional foods for immune benefits.
In China, 54% of seniors aged 55-74 are interested in foods to improve their immune system and in the US, 36% of consumers are interested in beverages that feature immunity-boosting benefits.
Boosting the immune system is also an important reason that motivates European consumers, especially those aged 55+, to use functional food and drink.
Good nutrition is important for the immune system to function properly, yet immunity is still a relatively untapped opportunity in functional food and drink products.
Less than 1% of global food and drink launches have made a functional claim for immune health in the past five years.
Micronutrients like zinc, vitamins A, C and D are some of the more common and recognized ingredients found in products with immune-boosting benefits. In the past five years, from 2015 to 2019, there was an increase in vitamin/mineral fortified claims on global food and drink launches positioned with a functional benefit for immune health.
Dairy brings proteins & probiotics to the table
Protein also plays an important role in keeping the immune system strong, and high/added protein claims have nearly doubled on global immunity food and drink in the past five years.
In 2019, nearly 11% of food and drink products with an immune functional claim also carried a high/added protein claim.
Whey protein concentrate, isolated soy protein, and whey protein isolate were the leading three protein ingredients found in global food and drink products that contain both a high protein claim and immune system functional claim in the past five years.
Probiotics too have a place to help support the immune system alongside immune-boosting nutrients, such as protein, vitamins, and minerals.
For example, GoLive Plus Immunity Functional Blend from the US is a powdered consumer supplement mix that combines vitamins and minerals with probiotics and prebiotics to support immune health.
GoLive Plus’ immunity probiotic blend features a spectrum of targeted, clinically tested probiotic strains.
The product also features complimentary, functional ingredients, including echinacea, manganese, vitamin C, vitamin D3 and zinc. In 2019, 11% of food and drink products with an immune functional claim also carried a probiotic claim, up from 8% in 2015, driven by product launches in dairy and baby food categories.
Probiotics can offer several functional properties beyond gut health, including stimulation of the immune system.
Already 58% of consumers aged 20-49 in China believe probiotics can boost immunity and 43% of US consumers who take probiotics do so for immune system health.
In the past five years, L. acidophilus, B. coagulans BGI-30, B. lactis, and L. rhamnosus were the leading probiotics found in global food and drink products that carry both a probiotic and immune health functional product claim.
For example, NutraCare ProBio Plus Adult Probiotic Drops, launched in Australia, contain the clinically studied probiotic strain Lactobacillus rhamnosus SP1, said to contribute to immunity, as well as digestive health and skin health.
COVID-19 will have lasting effects on consumers’ behaviour.
COVID-19 will have lasting effects on consumers’ behaviour. While immunity support has been a focus for some consumers for some time now, this may be the time for manufacturers to offer all consumers support and education about ways to stay healthy.
Ingredients with proven immune system benefits will resonate with consumers looking for nutritional solutions to support their health and wellness.
Brands also have opportunities to educate consumers on the benefits of these products and how they can be used as wellness tools in addition to important practices like hand washing and social distancing.
The author of this article
Associate Director, Food Science at Mintel
With over 10 years of experience in the food industry, Stephanie brings a food science background to her work at Mintel. She is responsible for analyzing and providing insight on ingredient and nutrition trends, regulations and food science innovations. She has a bachelor's degree in Food Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prior to Mintel, Stephanie worked as a food scientist in R&D for an ingredients company.