Findings are published in an ebook, ‘Functional Health Benefits for Every Generation’ and identify immune, digestive, and joint health as major drivers for growth within the sector.
Consumers have a better understanding of the link between the gut and ‘whole-body health’, which was accelerated by Covid-19, and has generated considerable interest in functional solutions for a wide range of health and wellbeing needs, says Kerry VP of ProActive Health, John Quilter.
“One of the key findings of our survey was the scale of the impact of the pandemic on demand – not just for immune health products, but for functional foods, beverages, and supplements overall.
“Forty-four per cent of respondents globally said they had bought more dietary supplements since the outbreak of the pandemic, while 42% had increased their purchases of functional or fortified foods and beverages.”
Delivery system counts
The survey focused on three demographic groups (millennials, Generation Z, and older adults) and highlights key functional trends, such as demand for ‘better-for-you’ products that are easy to incorporate into daily diets and routines.
Kerry cites immune support as the leading priority across all age groups, but healthy bones and joints, and digestive health are also broadly cited, as well as heart and cognitive health.
Quilter commented: “Demand for the most sought-after benefits was high across all age groups. Immune support was a universal concern regardless of age, and demand for joint and digestive health solutions was also very high, even among younger consumers.”
Nevertheless, there were differences in format preferences among demographic groups. For example, older consumers were drawn to tea and coffee for immune support, while 50% of younger millennials cited dairy and plant-based dairy drinks and yogurts as their preferred delivery system to boost immunity.
Quilter acknowledges age as a defining factor in the decision-making process and asserts that consumers are generally more receptive to health claims on categories traditional viewed as healthy, like dairy.
He maintains that close to 90% of consumers cited some type of macronutrient (such as vitamins, calcium, or protein) as a key component of dairy products. “In the late 2010s, launches of functional dairy products saw a CAGR of 7.9% – outstripping the growth of dairy as a whole by more than double.”
Sports nutrition and healthy ageing
Sports nutrition is a popular form of supplementation among young adults and particularly 18 to 34-year-olds who have embraced sports and energy drinks for added digestive and immune support.
Demand for sports and energy bars for joint health increased by 75% between 2017 and 2020 and interest in bars and cereals with probiotics and protein is particularly buoyant in Latin America, Brazil, and Mexico.
“It’s not just about muscle growth or recovery anymore, but an understanding about sports nutrition in holistic terms,” according to Quilter.
Meanwhile, functional solutions that improve sleep and maintain overall cognitive health appeal to both older millennials and younger consumers, while consumers from the age of 56 upwards focus on a balanced diet and ‘healthy ageing’ through physical activity.
Sustainability is another important factor when considering functional options and as many as 49% of consumers look for sustainable practices in the foods and beverages brands.
“Organic products are widely seen as both sustainable and healthy, and countries that deem health an important consideration in buying preferences generally say the same for sustainability,” he said.
In addition, 74% of consumers pay attention to nutritional benefits when buying food and drink and personalisation of health care is encouraging consumers to choose age and gender specific products.
It is also noteworthy that around 53% of health-conscious parents carry out extensive research before buying functional products, which has helped drive demand for gummy supplements and category growth of 38% CAGR between 2016 to 2020.