Matevž Ambrožič, marketing and PR director at PharmaLinea, hosted the market insights packed event on Thursday (March 18) in an aim to help companies comprehend where the new product development opportunities lie as the globe emerges from this pandemic-induced recession.
"Whilst predicted global GDP in 2022 will be around 3.7% behind what was expected for the year pre-pandemic, the recovery has been extremely fast, thanks largely to the strength of the e-commerce sector," he said.
And thankfully for this sector, the ‘consumer health’ industry managed to stay stable through 2020, with vitamins and dietary supplements (VDS) even seeing y-o-y growth (Euromonitor Consumer Health: World market, October 2020). This is no huge surprise as FMCG Gurus has already revealed COVID-19 made between 9% and 22% of consumers (depending on the global market) turn to supplements to help boost their health in 2020.
Notably, Ambrožič revealed the VMS sector is expected to reach the same total value as the OTC sector in 2025 – which he says will be an historic achievement for the industry.
Accordingly, 63% of European industry professionals said their company had started new product development projects as a result of COVID-19 in NutraIngredients' State of the Sector survey in September 2020.
But where are the key innovation opportunities?
The immune health sector represented 15% of the global VDS marketplace in 2020 (Euromonitor Consumer Health data, March 2021) and Euromonitor’s Immune Support Report (Oct 2020) reveals that this interest is very much in preventative solutions, not treatments.
Discussing this data, Ambrožič explains: “If you compare the preventative supplements to the acute remedies for cold and flu, you see a dramatic difference - COVID-19 led to a big increase in preventative supplements and a steep decline in cold and flu medicines.”
And looking at which specific ingredients consumers are turning to for their immune health needs, Ambrožič says the front runners are surprisingly varied.
“You might expect vitamins C and D would be clear front runners in terms of demand for specific products but the distribution of interest is wider the you might imagine. Even for vitamin C, the leading ingredient, only 40% of immunity VMS consumers are looking for it.”
Other supplements ranked high on the list include: multivits, vitamin D, vit B, and Omegas, Vitamin E, probiotics, fish oil, iron and calcium (Euromonitor health and nutrition survey 2020).
“This suggests it may be good to formulate with a wide array of ingredients to attract a wider arrange of consumers and to target a wider range of mechanisms,” suggests Ambrožič.
Google Search Trends (March 2021) reveals that searches for vitamin D increased by 40% in the year 2020 and by 32% in the year 2021, while vitamin C saw a huge surge in 2020, with a 84% growth in searches, followed by an unremarkable 10% growth in 2021.
‘Blue light’ was another term that saw a surge in interest, with an increase of 28% and 23% in 2020 and 2021 respectively, indicating a heightened awareness of the dangers of staring at a screen all day in lockdown.
Sleep and mood
In another sign of lockdown related health concerns, Ambrožič notes that mood and relaxation focused products represented a sizeable share of the global VDS market in 2021, at 5.2% (Euromonitor’s Consumer Health data, March 2021).
A Euromonitor Health and Nutrition consumer survey (more than 2,000 consumers October 2020) revealed what health areas in which consumers are seeking out new products and which areas of health they are dissatisfied with current products on the market.
The two areas that came out on top were ‘sleep’ and ‘weight management’.
“This shows many consumers are concerned about these areas of their health and they are seeking out new products to support their needs in these areas. Mobility, men’s health, pain, and stress and anxiety are also high on the list of concerns and high level of product dissatisfaction. This shows consumers are seeking new solutions in these areas.
“For example, almost 50% of consumers are looking for sleep solutions…These are valuable areas to move into with a new product launch or with marketing communications.
“These areas are likely to continue to grow in interest as they are all conditions which are difficult to address due to underlying lifestyle impacts, plus COVID-19 has caused consumers to prioritise these areas, and thirdly, the existing solutions on the market are often commodity based and insufficient to bring lasting change. This is the analysis of Euromonitor.”
The growing interest in sleep health is exemplified by a consumer survey by FMCG Gurus, which found that 66% of global consumers are interested in products which can improve sleep quality (July 2020) while 58% of consumers expressed interested in products that can help alleviate their stress levels (April/May 2020).
In fact, growth in mood support and relaxing supplements out-paced the total supplements growth (Euromonitor consumer health data 2021) across the globe.
Rick Miller, Associate Director, Specialised Nutrition at Mintel, joined the webinar and said Mintel's global product launch database helps to show what areas brands are seeing as big opportunities. One claim that saw a notable drop in product launches in 2020, was 'energy', which is in-keeping with this growing trend for sleep and mood focused products.
Miller notes this is reflected in the decreased interest in stimulating products in general. VMS product launches with a 'caffeine' claim dropped from 4% to 2% of all VMS launches (2019 vs 2020).
Looking at the top ten claims for VMS product launches in 2020 versus 2019, the Mintel database shows significant growth in products making an immunity claim - up from 18% to 25% of all launches.
Other fast-growing claims included: vegan/plant based (17-22%), free from (15-19%), no-additives (22-27%), and antioxidants (15-18%).
"There's an on-going demand for 'cleaner' labels, with no-additives and 'free from' continuing to be claims that consumers are desiring and probably that comes from the desire for hygiene from the COVID-19 outbreak."