The new report from global food and drink giant Kerry, reveals that immune system support is the most common reason consumers buy healthy lifestyle products.
The survey asked consumers to select five options from a list of 13 health areas and rank them in order of importance. The survey report reveals nearly two thirds (63%) chose immune system support, ahead of healthy bones and joints (59%), good digestive health (50%), and improve energy levels (48%).
Interest in immune health was highest in Asia, which Kerry suggests is due to the ageing population and increased interest in living active lifestyles, but it also rated highly in the EU (67%), particularly in Germany (76.5%) and Italy (68%).
John Quilter, VP and general manager for ProActive Health at Kerry, says the heightened interest in immune health stems from the holistic health trend.
"It’s partly because of growing interest in functional ingredients generally, and the fact that consumers are increasingly proactive when it comes to their health. But more fundamentally, good immune health is the foundation of a high quality of life for all of us.
"However old we are, wherever we are in the world, we all want to avoid getting sick. Immune health products speak to our need for general wellbeing – there’s no risk of them ever being pushed into a niche."
The research reveals that, in Europe, 68% believe breakfast is the best time for consuming products with immune health benefits.
Linking with this meal preference, the product categories where there is the most interest in immune heath benefits are within yogurt and yogurt-based drinks, especially in Europe and Latin America, as well as fruit and vegetable juices, particularly in North America and Asia.
But the preferred format varies dependent on the consumer's individuals interests. Those consumers who were categorised within the 'athletic group', tended to show a higher level of interest in purchasing sports nutrition products and cereal/breakfast bars with immune health benefits, perhaps because they like to eat and drink on the go.
Mothers with children aged 12 or under demonstrate greater interest in purchasing children’s beverages, snacks, dietary supplements and sports nutrition products with immune health benefits.
The interest in health snacks was wide ranging - the research found that 31% of consumers globally would be interested in buying snacks with immune health benefits.
In its report, Kerry concludes that mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks are a prime opportunity, with each of these occasions favoured by 39% of consumers globally as a good time to use products with immune support benefits and around 80% of all consumers said they had purchased a snack in the past six months.