Consumer Attitudes Toward Immunity
Globally, there has been an uptick in interest in immune system supplements, as well as foods to boost the immune system. FMCG Gurus1 reports that in the past year alone, consumers worldwide are making changes to their diets and lifestyles to improve their immunity—61 percent in North America, 56 percent in Europe, 50 percent in Africa, 48 percent in the Asia Pacific, and 45 percent in South America. The most common reason for making changes was the desire to be proactive about their health (as opposed to suffering from a health condition).
When consumers were asked to self-assess their immune health, in all regions except North America, more than half reported their immunity as good or very good—59 percent in Africa, 57 percent in the Asia Pacific, 55 percent in South America, and 52 percent in Europe. North American consumers were the least satisfied with their immune health, with only 49 percent describing their immunity as good or very good.
In the U.S., cold/flu/immunity supplements are 7 percent of the total supplement market, according to Nutrition Business Journal.2 The immune system supplements category is on track for continued strong growth, with sales forecast to reach $3.94 million by 2022, up from $3.17 million in 2018.
Immune System Vitamins and Minerals
According to Mintel3, of global products launched between 2014 and 2019 with an immune system claim, 58 percent contained vitamins and 48 percent contained minerals. The top vitamins for immune system support used in these foods, beverages, and supplements were vitamins C, D, and B6, while zinc was the top mineral. The top ten micronutrients included in new immune-boosting products in the five-year period were:
- Vitamin C (38 percent)
- Vitamin D (31 percent)
- Vitamin B6 (27 percent)
- Vitamin A (26 percent)
- Zinc (25 percent)
- Vitamin E (24 percent)
- Calcium (24 percent)
- Folic acid (23 percent)
- Niacin (23 percent)
- Vitamin B1 (22 percent)
While numerous ingredients are showing up in products that boost the immune system, Mintel reports that the most recognized by consumers as providing immunity benefits are vitamin C, vitamin A, and zinc. However, FMCG Gurus found that in Europe, the Asia Pacific, and Africa, iron was the ingredient most frequently associated with improving the immune system, while magnesium was rated the highest in South America.
Botanicals and Foods to Boost the Immune System
While some consumer segments are drawn more to immune system vitamins and minerals, others tend to look to foods and botanicals for immunity support. These consumers want to know how to boost the immune system naturally but still expect ingredients with well-researched, evidence-based benefits (e.g., ginger, camu camu, elderberry, and certain mushrooms).
Mintel identified a number of botanical ingredients that are being used more frequently in new products making immunity claims. From 2014 to 2019, increased usage rates by functional food and supplement manufacturers were noted for:
- Green tea
- Korean ginseng extract
- Echinacea extract
- Reishi mushroom