Ingredients backed by science: The key to successful immune health products in Asia

Published: 16-Jul-2019

With immune health being one of the highest priorities for Asian consumers, manufacturers should choose ingredients that offer clinically proven benefits, writes John Quilter, VP and General Manager of ProActive Health, Kerry

Accounting for 23.3% of all sales, immune health is the biggest segment of China’s dietary supplement market (Euromonitor data, 2017–2018) … and immunity is a critical issue for health-conscious consumers across all of Asia.

This is partly because of the diversity of demographic groups for whom immunity is an important goal. Families with children, athletes and people experiencing lifestyle stress are all fuelling demand for products that offer immune health benefits.

Another key driver is the growing ageing population.1 By 2050, the number of Asians aged 60 or older is projected to hit nearly 1.3 billion.2 As they are looking to stay healthy and active for longer, immune health is a top priority for ageing consumers in Asia, and a key driver for growth in the functional foods and beverages space.

Meanwhile, according to Euromonitor, Asia’s sports nutrition sector is forecast to reach US$2.3 billion by 2023, partly driven by interest in major international sporting events (Asia will not only host the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, but also the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China).

A key goal for the growing number of sports-minded consumers in Asia is immune health. More than half (52%) of Internet users in China list improving their immunity as one of their reasons for taking part in sports and activities.3

Whereas demand for immune health is vast, the challenge for manufacturers is to ensure they stand out in an increasingly crowded market. One way to differentiate products is to target them at consumers’ individual needs. Two thirds (66%) of consumers in Asia say they are more likely to purchase products specifically developed for their age group, compared with 55% globally.

However, as in other global markets, the most effective strategy is to meet consumer demand for scientific substantiation by sourcing branded ingredients backed by clinical research.

One particular branded immune health ingredient (and one that has novel food approval in China) is Wellmune. A proprietary baker’s yeast beta 1,3/1,6 glucan, Wellmune is backed by more than a dozen clinical studies, demonstrating its ability to help strengthen the immune system.

In a study conducted in China, Wellmune was found to significantly decrease episodes of common childhood illnesses in one to four-year old’s during the cold season.4 In another study with a sports nutrition context, marathon runners consuming a dairy based drink containing Wellmune saw a 19% reduction in the severity of URTIs compared with a placebo group. They also missed fewer post-marathon workouts and enjoyed a 10% decrease in total symptomatic days.5

Another study suggested that participants taking Wellmune were able to avoid common post-exercise immune suppression, which may result from various environmental factors, such as increased exposure to crowds or travel exhaustion, as well as physical and psychological stress.6

In addition to being backed by this substantial body of scientific evidence, Wellmune is a unique brand that connects with consumers. Its benefits are relatable to all, but it can also be segmented to appeal to specific customer groups. It is the perfect ingredient for Asia’s diverse market of both sports-minded and ageing consumers who are putting an increasing importance on immune health.


  4. F. Meng, “Baker’s Yeast Beta-Glucan Decreases Episodes of Common Childhood Illness in 1 to 4 Year Old Children during Cold Season in China,” Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences 6, 518 (2016): doi:10.4172/2155-9600.1000519.
  5. E. Mah, et al., “Beverage Containing Dispersible Yeast β-Glucan Decreases Cold/Flu Symptomatic Days After Intense Exercise: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” Journal of Dietary Supplements (2018): doi: 10.1080/19390211.2018.1495676.
  6. B.K. McFarlin, et al., “Oral Supplementation with Baker's Yeast Beta Glucan is Associated with Altered Monocytes, T Cells and Cytokines Following a Bout of Strenuous Exercise,” Front. Physiol. (2017): doi: 10.3389/fphys.2017.00786.

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