Consumer Research Points to Immune-Boosting Functional Food Opportunities

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Immune health concerns are set to continue as a major priority, according to consumer research from Innova Market Insights.

The research indicates that one in four people globally has become more concerned about immune health since before the pandemic, a concern which was strongest among Millennials and younger Gen X, spanning the ages of 26-45.

“Alongside these rising concerns,” Lu Ann Williams, Global Insights Director, Innova Market Insights, said in a press release, “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.”

In Innova’s 2020 Consumer Survey, choosing foods naturally high in nutrients came third as a way of achieving immune health, behind getting enough sleep and maintaining physical health. 59% of consumers globally said they were looking for food and beverages to support them in this regard.

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Excluding supplements, the press release notes, immune support claims are currently focused in three main food and drink categories: Babies and Toddlers, Sports Nutrition, and Dairy. These three accounted for a combined 73% of immune claims on new products in 2020. Soft Drinks and Hot Beverages—particularly juice and tea—are growing categories, although they’re still small.

The press release states that there are ongoing opportunities for functional products in this area, with a wide range of food and drink products showing potential for immune claims. Further, as people understand that a holistic approach is best, immunity ingredients could increasingly be bundled with ingredients intended to support sleep, relaxation, and mood, all seen as key areas.

“Immunity may become less top of mind as the immediate threat of the current pandemic subsides,” concludes Williams. “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.”