Immune health category
Market stats highlight consumer demand
At the start of 2020, no one could have quite predicted the situation and restrictions we now find ourselves under as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. For many industries, implications of today’s reality and the looming economic crisis stretch far into the years ahead. In the nutraceuticals world, sales within the immune health category have soared as consumers respond to the COVID-19 threat. Demand for well-researched immune-boosting ingredients, such as vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, elderberry and echinacea, are at an all-time high as brands struggle to meet demand for existing SKUs, rush new formulations to market or top up their existing range.
Analysts have re-evaluated their previous forecasts and are now seeing increased potential for immune support to drive sales across the broader nutraceutical industry. Consider the new report from Global Industry Analysts,1 in which the organisation projects the global immune health supplements market will reach US$22.5 billion by 2027, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.8% from 2020. The growth rate is outpaced within the vitamins segment, which on its own is expected to see a 6.1% CAGR to top $8.1 billion by the end of the period; growth in minerals, meanwhile, is down slightly for the seven-year period to 5% CAGR. Of additional note is the expected 5.7% CAGR for the herbal/botanical extracts segment, driven by the United States, Canada, Japan, China and Europe, which will hit a projected $3.3 billion in sales by 2027.
Similar findings were reported by Arizton in its newest report on the global immune health supplements market,2 which forecasts a 12% CACR for herbal extracts between 2020 and 2025, and calls out echinacea, elderberry, astragalus, garlic and Andrographis as ingredients with particular potential. “The growth in the vegan population, flexitarians, and consumers seeking plant-based alternatives with fewer side-effects is driving the demand for the segment. The growth is also associated with the importance of clean labels and health claims,” the analysts add.
The growth in the vegan population, flexitarians, and consumers seeking plant-based alternatives with fewer side-effects is driving the demand for the segment. The growth is also associated with the importance of clean labels and health claims.
Arizton market research
Persistence Market Research focused its newest analysis of the immune health market around consumer demands as well as challenges facing manufacturers.3 On the consumer side, the firm notes consumers are recognising the challenges of a hectic, time-constrained lifestyle, and desire products that can support their bodies in fighting off infectious disease. In addition, shoppers are continuing to seek non-GMO and clean label solutions, driving interest in whole food solutions to their health concerns.
Click here to hear about delivering long-term immune support to consumers with Mike Hughes, FMCG Gurus
On the manufacturing side, the analysts note formulators are tasked with evaluating the science behind ingredients touted for their ability to support not only the immune system but whole-body wellness. Among the top contenders named in the report are elderberry, medicinal mushrooms, probiotics, omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs), and vitamins D and C. The firm also calls out opportunities for companies to explore different delivery formats and make use of unique flavour profiles: “Highly used flavored blends include super orange, acai berry, coconut-pineapple, cranberry-pomegranate, Meyer lemon, and raspberry. Moreover, these flavored immune health supplements are also available in the form of gummies, such as elderberry immune gummies, raspberry immune gummies, and others.”
It's more than just the opportunity for gummies; consumers are looking for ways to get more out of the products they’re already consuming. “In terms of categories that consumers will turn to, they will more likely turn to everyday food and drink products rather than nutritional supplements,” suggests Mike Hughes, head of research and insight at FMCG Gurus, a consumer insights company. “This is something that can be linked to affordability as well as the ease of incorporating products into daily diets.”
Regardless of the product format, COVID-19 is resulting in health-conscious consumers re-evaluating their diets and lifestyles. In addition to this, and irrespective of any concerns about their financial wellbeing because of the risk of recession, they are still willing to sample new products and trade up on products that meet their need states, Hughes says.
There are big questions around current market opportunities for brands with shares in the immune health category. Simply put, there’s an option to turn a simple and uncomplicated product to market in a matter of 45 days to meet demand for immune boosters. Legacy brands concerned with credibility damage associated with opportunism are less in favour of this approach. Alternatively, there’s the option to hold back and develop innovative products for wider market need and sustainable sales growth—an approach with more complex layers that could take years to oversee from start to finish. Regardless of the current market opportunity, businesses cannot compromise on their commitment to verifiably safe and high-quality products.
What format holds the most potential for immune health products?
- Something totally new
“In times of uncertainty, consumers tend to adopt a strategy of risk avoidance and scrutinise the practices and policies of brands more closely, including marketing and product claims,” Hughes says.
This means they will be especially conscious about whether health claims are misleading in order to try and charge a premium price and capitalise on health concerns. As such, he adds that any strategy needs to be positioned around offering consumers maximum transparency and promoting products as part of an overall balanced and healthy diet, instead of positioning products as a quick and easy way to deal with all health problems.
“If there was any time to launch an immunity product, it is now,” says George Kuriakose, VP marketing at Bio-Gen Extracts.
“The world is looking for easy access to products that boost immunity, preferably over-the-counter, safe and effective natural dietary supplements.” However, there are industry concerns about soft science and exaggerated label claims affiliated with emerging or first-time products. Dietary supplements can certainly help to boost one’s immune system but cannot, by any means, be sold with the promise to treat or cure diseases.
1. “Immune Health Supplements – Global Market Trajectory & Analytics”. Global Industry Analysts. July 2020. https://www.strategyr.com/market-report-immune-health-supplements-forecasts-global-industry-analysts-inc.asp
2. “Immune Health Supplements Market - Global Outlook and Forecast 2020-2025" Arizton. July 2020. https://www.arizton.com/market-reports/immune-health-supplements-market-2025
3. “Global Market Study on Immune Health Supplements: Rapidly Rising Demand for Immunity-boosting Products Augmenting Market Growth.” Persistence Market Research. June 2020. https://www.persistencemarketresearch.com/market-research/immune-health-supplements-market.asp
Ingredients for immunity
Science substantiates value of traditional, innovative offerings
There are a range of ingredients that do have strong substantiation for their efficacy around supporting a healthy immune response. One of the best-known segments—and positioned for growth as cited in the Global Industry Analysts report—is vitamins. Vitamin C, for example, supports various cellular functions of the innate and adaptive immune system, supporting barrier function, promoting oxidative scavenging, enhancing phagocytic cell function and much more.4 Similarly, vitamin D and its metabolites affect the adaptive and innate immune responses, working as an immunomodulator through genomic pathways.5
Strong interest has also been seen around beta-glucans, polysaccharides sourced from plant cells, baker’s yeast and certain fungi. Beta-glucans appear to have immunostimulatory properties and also serve as a prebiotic, supporting the role of the microbiota in natural defense.6 Eastern countries have used medicinal mushrooms, rich in beta-glucans, for their healing and immunostimulating properties for thousands of years.7 This review notes these polysaccharides appear to support the immune response by enhancing activity of macrophages and natural killer (NK) cells. Mushrooms also have a range of anti-inflammatory components that may modulate the immune response.8
Growth is also continuing in the area of probiotics and prebiotics—and even synbiotics—designed to augment healthy function of the microbiome. Researchers have noted the critical role the microbiota plays in the function of the immune system, working synergistically with the human host affecting adaptive and innate components of immunity.9 Supplementation with certain probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics may impact immune response; however, the mechanisms are strain-specific or metabolite-specific, making it critical for formulators to ask for specific data in this area10 (for more on this topic, see Probiotics market developments mini-report).
In addition, consumer interest in botanicals is on the rise. Whether seeking herbs that appear to directly support immune function such as elderberry and echinacea, or the adaptogens like ashwagandha and rhodiola with the ability to support homeostasis, consumers are interested in these products, and research is expanding that supports their efficacy. (For more, see Botanicals market opportunities mini-report.)
“A joint engagement of industry and science is required to address these shortcomings and inconsistencies to open the opportunities for public health.”
Dr Manfred Eggersdorfer
As far as helping to educate consumers about ingredients with health benefits, it’s worth exploring how industry can work closer with health organisations to identify vulnerable demographics and present combined information about what can be done to minimise the risk of illness in the long-term, adds Hughes.
This is a major consideration, according to Dr Manfred Eggersdorfer, professor for healthy ageing at the University Medical Center Groningen. He identifies the missing commitment of the medical community and governments to communicate and advocate for the role of a strong immune system to reduce risk, duration and severity of viral infections. “A joint engagement of industry and science is required to address these shortcomings and inconsistencies to open the opportunities for public health,” he says. Supporting a strong immune system should be of relevance and importance to public healthcare and government institutions, offering a greater rationale to tighten the relationship between industry and regional bodies.
Through a collaborative and committed effort, the industry can achieve its goal of broader consumer awareness, understanding and appreciation for immune health and associated science. In fact, Kuriakose believes the industry will emerge with further focus on preventive and prophylactic remedies, customised to suit modern day challenges dedicated to the health of the global population. The immune health market is undoubtedly having its turn at the top of the podium. How closely consumers will resonate with the importance of lifelong prevention remains to be seen over the coming years. Currently, brands have the opportunity to act responsibly, deepen the science, and drive consumer trust through transparency and innovation.
Download the 2020 Vitafoods Insights immune health deep dive report
4. Carr AC, Maggini S. Nutrients. 2017 Nov 3;9(11):1211. DOI: 10.3390/nu9111211.
5. Trochoutsou AI et al. Mini Rev Med Chem. 2015;15(11):953-63. DOI: 10.2174/1389557515666150519110830.
6. Ciecierska A et al. Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 2019;70(4):315-24. DOI: 10.32394/rpzh.2019.0082.
7. Akramiene D et al. Medicina (Kaunas). 2007;43(8):597-606.
8. Muszynska B et al. Food Chem. 2018 Mar 15;243:373-81. DOI: 10.1016/j.jfoodchem.2017.09.149
9. Belkaid Y, Harrison OJ. Immunity. 2017 Apr 18;46(4):562-76. DOI: 10.1016/j.immuni.2017.04.008.
10. Frei R, Akdis M, O’Mahony L. Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2015 Mar;31(2):153-8. DOI: 10.1097/MOG. 0000000000000151.
Dr Manfred Eggersdorfer, professor for healthy ageing, University Medical Center, Groningen, studied chemistry at the Technical University Munich and did his doctorate in organic chemistry. He was post-doc at Stanford-Universit. He joined Roche in 1999 as Head of R&D Vitamins, later taking up the responsibility for Nutrition Science and & Advocacy at DSM in 2010. In 2013 he was installed as Professor for Healthy Ageing at the University Medical Center Groningen. He has published numerous papers and books on vitamins, carotenoids, omega fatty acids and nutraceuticals.
Mike Hughes, head of research and insight at FMCG Gurus, has over 13 years’ experience analysing consumer trends, attitudes and behaviours. He has a particular interest in highlighting how consumer attitudes and behaviours can often differ and what the true meaning of trends are for the industry.
George Kuriakose, VP marketing, Bio-Gen Extracts, heads the operations at Anaha LifeCare, which is a formulation development and manufacturing company. He has a rich experience of more than three decades in the industry across functions such as product planning, development, sales and marketing.