Immune trends that are here to stay. What are consumers looking for?
With immunity still front and centre in most consumers’ minds, it pays to be across what’s currently resonating and what’s next in this space. Here’s some food for thought.
The past few years have naturally seen a surge in consumer interest in immunity: in 2021, more than one in two global consumers cited “immune health” as their main reason for purchasing healthy lifestyle products.
Dr Leo Hermans is the Chief Scientific Advisor at IMUNI, an Australian company that formulates nutraceutical, evidence-based products, many of which are designed to support the immune system. He says consumer interest in immune health is here to stay. “From what we can see, immune health is absolutely a trend that’s going to remain front of mind for a long time for many Australians,” he says.
Naturopath Shauna Anderson, from wholefood supplements brand Whole Earth & Sea, says part of the equation is that immune health has gone mainstream. “There’s an acceptance that looking after immunity is not just something we do when we’re acutely ill – it’s a process that can be supported daily.”
So, with the Global Immunity Trends for 2022 and Beyond report suggesting that consumer interest in immune system health is likely to stick around, the question is, what sorts of trends and products will consumers gravitate towards?
As the role that gut health plays in maintaining immunity becomes clearer, consumers are clueing into the link. Recent market reports show that among people who take a probiotic to improve their digestive health, 77 per cent of them do it to support their immune system. Hermans says it’s important to know that not all probiotics are created equal when it comes to supporting immune health.
“Research has identified the effectiveness of specific strains of probiotics for certain clinical outcomes, including immune health,” he says. “It’s why we consciously chose the suite of evidence-based probiotics contained in IMUNI’s Specialised Probiotics+.”
A type of dietary fibre that feeds the good bacteria in the gut, prebiotics occur naturally in a wide variety of plant-based foods, fruits, vegetables and cereals, and they’re also added to supplements. Their role in gut health might not be as well-known as probiotics, but already 35 per cent of Australians recognise prebiotics as having immune-health benefits. Interestingly, an emerging trend in some markets is consumers who are aware of specific types of prebiotics, such as galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), as well as the unique benefits different prebiotics can deliver.
Zinc and vitamin C are the nutrients traditionally linked to improving immune response, but a 2022 immunity report, compiled by science-based nutrition, health and sustainable living company DSM, shows that 62 per cent of consumers worldwide now associate vitamin D with boosting immunity, too. And not only are they right, many of them are probably running low on it. In fact, in Australia, more than one in every three adults has mild, moderate or severe vitamin D deficiency.
Trend reports show that while some consumers are drawn to supplements that contain immunity-enhancing vitamins and minerals, others tend to look to food- and botanical-based ingredients, as long as they’re well-researched, with evidence-based benefits – like certain mushrooms.
“Mushrooms have been extensively studied for their ability to improve immune function,” says Anderson, “due in part to mushrooms’ active compounds such as beta-glucan polysaccharides and proteins. For example, clinical research has found that reishi mushrooms possess extensive immune-modulating effects, and help protect immune system cells from oxidative damage.”
Immunity-boosting functional foods
The Global Immunity Trends for 2022 and Beyond report and the DSM report both identify “pill fatigue” as being a potential issue for some consumers in the immune health space. As a result, 25 per cent of consumers surveyed by DSM in 2022 said they want immunity-boosting benefits from their food or drink – perhaps a bar fortified with a superfood blend or a tea with added vitamins, minerals and botanicals that have been linked with immune-health support. This gives brands and businesses the opportunity to offer immune-health solutions that complement consumers’ lifestyles, tastes and routines.
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