LONDON — The immunity trend is here to stay, according to industry experts surveyed by Euromonitor.
Interest in food and beverages carrying an immunity claim surged at the beginning of the year and has remained elevated throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The marketing intelligence firm surveyed food and beverage experts in April and July and found confidence in the trend’s durability increased over time.
“More respondents felt that movement to these products was either a permanent or mid-term change in July than in April,” said Matthew Oster, industry manager, consumer health, at Euromonitor. “It seems the demand for immunity functionality will last not just into 2021 but will potentially set the stage for broader behavior changes into the future.”
Underlying this movement is the emergence of what Euromonitor calls “Immunity Seekers.” Around a third of global consumers fit the profile, meaning they regularly and actively engage with immunity products.
Immunity Seekers tend to cluster in two age groups: Early- to mid-career and those who have retired or are near retirement, Euromonitor found. Twenty percent of American consumers who fit the description were in their thirties, followed by a slight retreat among consumers in their forties and fifties, and another jump among those in their sixties and older.
“There is a heightened need to stave off illness during the prime of their professional life, as their building up esteem professionally, and this mirrors the typical entrance into parenthood, with needs for immunity and prevention for both the parent and child,” Mr. Oster said.
Immunity seekers are more likely to be highly educated and live in dense urban areas. They cited doctors and medical professionals as their No. 1 source of information. Immunity Seekers also were more trusting of friends, family and online sources than the average consumer. They were more likely to research immunity on their own, engage in online discussions about ingredients and products, and were more likely to develop an understanding of a product’s benefits before purchasing.
There’s little consensus when it comes to ingredients used for immune support, Euromonitor found. Immunity Seekers reported using a wide range of ingredients, including vitamins B, C, D and E, omegas, probiotics, fish oil, iron, calcium, protein, turmeric, ginseng, green tea extract, collagen, mushroom extracts and CBD.
“The lack of unanimity in ingredients supports the fact that Immunity Seekers are thinking of immunity in broader terms and are open to trying different ingredients for this need,” Mr. Oster said. “This implication is really important as the industry looks to evolve and as the term ‘immunity’ broadens to incorporate new formats, new ingredients and new positionings.”
Many consumers already have adopted an expanded view of health, evolving their definition beyond weight or physical appearance. Immunity Seekers conceptualized health in even broader terms. They were more likely to include mental and emotional well-being, getting enough sleep, feeling good, eating a balanced diet, fitness, endurance, physical strength, absence of disease and low stress in their definition of health.
This broad engagement may signal a need for food and beverage makers to look beyond their direct competitors to capture a holistic lifestyle approach, said Amrutha Shridhar, senior research consultant, consumer insights, at Euromonitor.
“Immunity features are just one example of a consumer-driven trend that transcends categories and industries,” Ms. Shridhar said. “Companies need to understand that their competitors lie outside of their traditional industries. They need to work with other products and services that a consumer chooses to make sure they’re still relevant.”
She underscored her advice with data from Euromonitor’s annual Health and Nutrition Survey, which found more consumers are meeting health goals through foods and beverages than pharmaceuticals. Younger consumers in particular reported avoiding pharmaceuticals when possible.
“Both millennials and Gen Z are steering toward natural living, but their drivers for doing so are very different,” Ms. Shridhar said. “Millennials are seeking a more balanced lifestyle and Generation Z is worried about the long-term effects of pharmaceutical products.”