Coronavirus sparks ‘staggering growth’ in online searches for foods with functional benefits: report

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Image: iStock
Image: iStock

Related tags kombucha functional claims Functional food elderberry coronavirus health & wellbeing

What foods are consumers looking to during coronavirus?

Functional foods like kombucha and elderberries are the potential winners from the virus, according to data insights provider Tastewise.

Data released by the AI-powered food intelligence startup found ‘staggering growth’ in internet searches from consumers seeking a food-based health boost from February 2019-March 2020.

“In this time of global pandemic, consumers are increasingly aware of their health and the practices necessary to defend it. While the last year has seen consumers increasingly turn to food and beverage for functional benefits​, Tastewise is seeing staggering growth in the trend during this time of coronavirus,”​ the report said.  

Tastewise works by analysing more than two million interactions across social media platforms along with more than three million online recipes and menus database of 274,000 restaurants. It uses this data to reveal the most-up-to data and consumer trends. A lot of the data is from the US but it is still used by Tastewise to form opinions of global trends.

Tastewise stressed the information does not constitute medical or health advice; all data is reflective of the most recent trends in consumer interests.

“Immunity, stress relief, medicinal benefits, and more are all skyrocketing. It is more important now than ever for food industry players to understand what solutions consumers look for in stressful times, and why,”​ it added. 

“'Immune system' as a desired function of food and beverage is rising +66% month-on-month. Typically, as we approach the end of winter, we expect to see less of this. However, current concerns have changed the pattern.”


Searches for ‘elderberry’, perceived as being good for the immune system, are up over 108% m-o-m, said the report. Searches for ‘rosemary’, seen as a stress relief, rose 114% m-o-m.

“Stress relief is increasingly relevant as consumers find themselves in a time of health, social, and economic upheaval. The motivation is experiencing +12% year-on-year growth and will likely drastically increase moving forward,”​ the report wrote.

“Health is top of mind for consumers. Food-based sickness treatments help people take a proactive approach to preserving their health; 45% more consumers y-o-y are focused on this quality. We expect to see that number climb over the coming months.”

Tastewise advised manufactures to keep an eye out for unexpected ways to meet consumer needs for a food-based health boost.

The report found searches for melon for sickness treatment rose 28% m-o-m. “Fruits, like citrus, are well known for their health-protecting qualities; vitamin-c-rich melon is demonstrating very early signals of a potential trend for health benefits. eg. Bitter melon,”​ it stated.

Searches for kombucha for medicinal reasons rose 73% m-o-m. “Kombucha pairs gut health with medicinal ingredients like passionfruit and mushrooms,” ​it said.

Searches from people seeking pickles for the immune system were up 18.5% m-o-m. “Pickling immunity-boosting ingredients like radishes/carrots enables them to last longer and provides a much-needed health boost,” ​the research stated.

Searches from consumers seeking chamomile for its anti-inflammatory properties rose 81.5%. “Chamomile is well-known for its relaxing properties in tea; consumers are beginning to use the flower for anti-inflammatory purposes,”​ the analysis observed.

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