In Innova Market Insights’ 2020 consumer survey, foods high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, came third as a way of achieving immune health especially among the 26-35-year age category.
“Immunity may become less top of mind as the immediate threat of the current pandemic subsides,” reports Lu Ann Williams, Global Insights Director at Innova Market Insights.
“But if products are easy to integrate into daily lives and have established benefits (e.g. probiotics in yogurt), they are likely to continue to be sought after as part of the ongoing move to healthier lifestyles and the more proactive and holistic approach to health.”
Vitamin D and the virus
The emphasis on nutrition as a way of warding off the ill effects of coronavirus has gained traction after a number of studies have added scientific credence to these claims.
Vitamin D, in particular has made headlines after scientists urged further study to investigate if vitamin D may reduce COVID-19 incidence after their study linked a deficiency of the sunshine vitamin with the likelihood of becoming infected with the coronavirus.
A review paper in May 2020 went further, identifying an “indisputable relation between vitamin D and the immune system”, citing key evidence showing the avoidance of vitamin D deficiency had clear benefits for immune health.
The clamour to add vitamin D to the COVID-19 fight reached governments worldwide, where in December 2020, health, science and medical experts from the US and Europe sent an open letter highlighting clear scientific evidence that vitamin D reduced COVID-19 infections, hospitalisations, and deaths.
Innova’s consumer survey also reveals that immune health claims were already trending upward before COVID-19, particularly in Europe and North America.
The market research firm adds that it was one of the fastest-growing health claims in food and beverage globally in terms of the number of new product launches between 2016 and 2020.
Immune support claims
Excluding supplements, immune support claims are currently focused on Babies and Toddlers (particularly milks), Sports Nutrition (particularly powders) and Dairy (particularly drinking yogurts/fermented beverages).
These accounted for a combined 73% of immune claims on new products in 2020, says Innova. Smaller but growing subcategories include soft drinks and hot beverages, with a particular interest in juice drinks and tea.
“Consumers are taking a more holistic approach, with getting enough sleep, being physically and mentally healthy and eating the right things ranking highly as ways of achieving immune health,” adds Williams.
Looking towards the future, the survey thinks consumer focus on food and beverage to support immune health provides opportunities for product makers to provide suitable products.
“The understanding that a holistic and preventative approach to health needs to take account of physical, mental and emotional aspects,” the survey concludes.
“This could see immunity ingredients increasingly bundled with other ‘feel good’ claims, with mood, emotional well-being, relaxation, and sleep all seen as key areas moving forward.”