Immune health: the desire for functional ingredients

During the past 18 months, particularly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, immune health has become a key consumer concern. However, although accelerated by COVID-19, addressing immune and overall well-being is not a new trend

Consumers have been adopting a holistic approach to well-being for some time. This change in motivation has led a number of consumers to actively seek out better-for-you products that offer functional and health benefits. So, what are they looking for and what claims and ingredients are appealing to them?

Immune health

Confidence about immune health and overall well-being is on the decline. FMCG Gurus insights show that 65% of global consumers say that they have become more conscious about their immune health as a result of COVID-19. This highlights that society in general, not just those considered to be vulnerable, is more aware and worried.

Initially, concern will have been linked to the pandemic; however, as time has passed, anxiety remains, suggesting that consumers are re-evaluating their attitudes towards health and taking a more proactive approach to well-being.

Although the pandemic has accelerated this trend, it’s worth noting that pessimism towards immune health was not the sole cause: 44% of global consumer stated that they had experienced health problems in the last 12 months — caused by day-to-day issues — that have impacted their quality of life. Another factor that will prompt people to adopt a long-term attitude to their immune health.

Improving immune health is one of the key goals that consumers look to address during the next 12 months. FMCG Gurus research reveals that 64% of global consumers plan to “increase their immune health, change their diets and improve their well-being.” In fact, 70% of respondents claim they have already begun to make these changes.

Dietary changes and functional ingredients

To improve their immune health, consumers are adapting their diets to include more fresh fruit and vegetables, adopting a back to basic approach to nutrition and cutting out “bad” ingredients such as sugar and additives.

FMCG Gurus research also shows that 48% of global consumers have increased the use of functional foods and beverages, highlighting how they’re looking to better understand the immune health benefits of ingredients such as iron, vitamin C, probiotics and protein. This is something that will drive demand for products that contain ingredients that are perceived to offer a convenient health boost.

As consumers seek out immunity boosting functional food and drink products, it is important that brands and manufacturers do not make misleading or exaggerated claims about these ingredients and how they can address coronavirus-related issues.

Instead, the ingredients need to be promoted in terms of the importance of maintaining a healthy diet. Consumers have become more wary of the health and wellness industry as they believe that (some) brands may not have their best intentions at heart.

Therefore, suppliers need to offer transparency and credibility to validate any immune health claims, which is something that can be done by using branded ingredients and scientific claims to support efficacy.

FMCG Gurus insights show that 45% of global consumers would be more likely to buy immune-supporting products if they contained a branded health ingredient, whereas 77% say that they would be more likely to buy the same products if they were supported by scientific claims.

Recommendation

The desire to improve immune health is driving consumers to address both health and well-being concerns. As they look to include more functional foods and beverages in their diets, there is an opportunity for brands and manufacturers to target these proactive buyers. However, it is important that immune health claims are clear and transparent, and the product must be convenient and easily incorporated into their everyday lives.

This article is based on “What’s Next for Immune Health in 2021 – Global Report” by FMCG Gurus and is reproduced with kind permission

Companies