Brands urged to consider immunity as a growing demand space in their category

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Brands urged to consider immunity as a growing demand space in their category

Related tags Immune health Gut health

Food companies must respond to the growing consumer desire for immunity, according to market researcher MMR Worldwide.

“It is inconceivable that immunity won’t remain a raised priority in people’s minds for years to come, and brands must respond now​,” Andrew Wardlaw, MMR’s chief ideas officer, told a special online broadcast called ‘Winning in Immunity’.

Jake Schneider, Head of Product Innovation at the Biotiful Dairy, noted growing interest in the company’s range of kefir products, recommended by nutritionists for their probiotic health properties, as consumers make the link between gut and immune health amid the coronavirus crisis.

“Retailers are seeing the numbers to back it up and are supporting consumers at fixture​,” he said.

“Immunity gives something really tangible [in gut health] for consumers. Scientifically, we know that a balanced gut is one that reacts when it needs to towards genuine pathogenic bacteria, and one that doesn’t overreact in an allergic fashion.”

Even before coronavirus, immune health was a growing trend. Research published in December 2019 by Wellmune, part of the Kerry Group, spanning 11,000 consumers across 14 global markets found that nearly two thirds (63%) placed immune health ahead of supporting healthy bones and joints, good digestive health, improve energy levels and heart health.

New research undertaken by MMR in association with TOLUNA in April 2020 found that immunity was now the number one health concern in China and South Africa, and only beaten by heart health in UK and US.

Wardlaw noted new peaks in demand for foods associated with gut health such as fermented foods (kefir to kombucha), dairy and non-dairy immunity shots, juices high in vitamin C, herbal tonics and teas.

He added that breakfast is typically the time when people invest in their health – which is why dairy and juice products excel in this space. Should immunity become an all-day concern, it is likely that other categories will need to get in on the act, such as snacking.

He further observed that brands must also consider how COVID-19 is most likely shifting preferences between taste and efficacy. In the future, it is quite likely that people will respond better to products that provide greater sensory assurance of efficacy – even at the expense of taste cues, he observed. Similarly, he noted there is likely to be a preference for science over nature, causing greater acceptance of fortified products – a recent example being Yakult, who have had the foresight to add vitamins D and E to a formula largely untouched for 20 years. He noted recent trials that have suggested vitamin D could play a role in supporting the immune system against respiratory infection​.

He also praised the evocative language used by Innocent ‘Citrus Shield’ to reinforce a feeling of protection, subsequently backed up by the complex, intense flavour delivery with lasting, warming ginger notes indicating the active properties of the product.

Obvious security seals deployed on packaging were highlighted as further ways to strengthen communication of robustness and integrity – executed by products such as RE: NOURISH Immunity Soup - which also borrows semiotic cues from medicine, whilst letting the vividness of its natural origins shine though.

Not all players are getting it entirely right, however, added Wardlaw. Mighty Gum’s Immunity Boosters offer medicinal reassurance across the pack experience but fail to deliver on the vibrancy of the elderberry, a trending ingredient linked to boosting immune health.

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