Holistic immunity for the whole market

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

Getty | Zerbor
Getty | Zerbor

Related tags Immunity Frieslandcampina

Driven by the growing global trend of holistic health, consumers of all ages are now looking for immune-supporting ingredients to improve their overall well-being. In this article, Sophie Zillinger Molenaar, global marketing lead, Biotis at FrieslandCampina Ingredients, gives her insights on the market.

How have consumers’ perception of their immune health changed in recent years? 

Immunity was traditionally a seasonal health priority for most consumers looking to avoid sniffles and coughs in winter. The pandemic supercharged consumer interest in immune health and while this has tapered off slightly as Covid-19 has passed its peak, consumer interest in immune support remains higher than it was pre-pandemic. 

This concern around people’s immune health is leading many to take proactive steps to building immunity. This can include lifestyle-led self-care such as getting enough sleep or lowering stress levels and adding beneficial foods, drinks and supplements to diets as consumers increasingly recognise the role their lifestyles play in maintaining a robust immune system.

What are some of the key ingredients making waves in this space? 

Vitamin C, D and echinacea are firm favourites in the immune health arena – but they’re not the only players in the field. Increasingly tech-savvy consumers are actively researching scientific reports to discover the latest immune-supporting ingredients to use alongside their usual favourites.

Lactoferrin is one ingredient gaining significant traction for its immune-boosting properties. Dairy has long been recognised for its ability to support the immune system, given its role in the development of essential functions, including immunity​, in infants. So, it’s no surprise that different components of dairy can contribute to maintaining a healthy immune system.

While lactoferrin has historically been used in infant formula, its applications are expanding thanks to its notable anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties (Zimecki et al. 1999). This versatility has sparked growing interest in the benefits of lactoferrin for people of all ages.

How do consumers like to take their immune health supplements?

Convenience is still king – and this rings true when it comes to immune health supplements. Gone are the days when consumers take a vitamin C tablet each day, they expect multi-functional supplements that combine vitamins alongside other beneficial ingredients. From fortified foods and drinks with added immune support to new and novel formats like gummies, consumers are looking for products that will not only provide them with the support they need but can be consumed easily as part of a daily routine.

It’s important to note that preferred formats do vary by region. In our experience, North American consumers typically turn to tried and tested supplement formats like capsules and powders and in Asia, tablets are popular for immune health. In Europe, capsules are also a firm favourite, but novel formats like gummies and RTDs are gaining traction.

At FrieslandCampina Ingredients, we’re tapping into a range of application suggestions across our ingredient portfolio to meet these different preferences. For example, our Biotis Lactoferrin Immune-Plus powder drink has been developed to inspire brands to create immune-supporting solutions that fit well into a daily routine and are packed with the anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties of lactoferrin.

What are the key demographics of the immune health supplement consumer in Europe?

Older consumers and young children have traditionally been key demographics for immunity-supporting solutions, owing to their typically weaker immune systems compared to healthy adults. However, reports are highlighting that these demographics are broadening. From 2020 to 2021, there was an 84% increase of people searching for ‘boost immune system’ on search engines​, highlighting the growing interest in immune health across the board.

As consumers become more interested in holistic health solutions, how does this impact the way they think about immunity?

The surge in interest in holistic health has revolutionised our perceptions of well-being. Rather than viewing physical and mental health as separate entities, consumers now recognise the interconnected nature of health areas. People overwhelmingly see living and feeling well as a top priority – 60% of consumers say that improving their general health and wellness is their main priority, with sleep, mood and physical fitness at the top of the agenda (Innova Lifestyles and Attitudes Survey, 2022).

As a result, people acknowledge that enhancing their immune health not only safeguards against illness and infections, but that feeling well also contributes to improved mental well-being.

This is highlighted through consumer preferences. Globally, 45% of nutritional supplement consumers use only one supplement and 79% do so to support their overall well-being, rather than one aspect of their health (FMCG Gurus, Nutritional Supplements in 2022). It’s abundantly clear: consumers want products that offer multiple benefits in one convenient format.

How do you see the immune health space changing in the coming years in terms of consumer preferences and new innovations?

The lasting effect of Covid-19 on the immune health market remains substantial and will likely persist for years to come. Consumer interest in immunity shows no sign of slowing – the immune health supplements market expected to reach the incredible value of $31.5 billion in 2028 (FMCG Gurus, ‘Evaluating the Long-Term implications of COVID-19’, 2022).

Technology is another factor influencing the immune health space. Although we can’t predict the future, advancements in personalised nutrition are likely to have a significant and exciting impact on this market. We’re already seeing genetic testing and the use of data allowing brands to create immune health solutions that are not just tailored to specific demographic’s needs, but to individual needs. And while this isn’t yet happening at-scale, rapid developments in this market show promise for a more personalised approach to immunity.

In addition, digital health technologies, such as mobile apps, are also expected to influence the immune health space. Consumers may increasingly rely on digital platforms to monitor and manage their immune health, which will then provide data to illuminate patterns and suggest solutions, will likely further bolster demand for immune health supplements.

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