KANSAS CITY — There’s nothing like a pandemic to make consumers prioritize immune health. Six out of 10 consumers increasingly are seeking food and beverage products that support immune health, according to Innova Market Insights, and one in three say their concerns about immunity increased in 2020 over 2019.

“Immunity-boosting ingredients will play a significant role for the coming year, while research and interest in the role of the microbiome and personalized nutrition as ways to strengthen immunity will accelerate,” said Lu Ann Williams, global insights director at Innova Market Insights.

A recent Hartman Group survey found 19% of respondents are using functional foods for immunity reasons and 48% are interested. The percentages for functional beverages were 13% and 46%.

“It’s not that immunity wasn’t important before the pandemic, but certainly what is happening in the current environment has really pushed that to the top of the list,” said Laurie Demeritt, chief executive officer of The Hartman Group.

In response to this increased interest in immunity, food and beverage manufacturers have incorporated immunity-boosting ingredients like vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, elderberry, ginger and adaptogens into their innovation.

“It’s not that immunity wasn’t important before the pandemic, but certainly what is happening in the current environment has really pushed that to the top of the list.” — Laurie Demeritt, The Hartman Group

Remedy Organics has added Immunity+ Shots to its line of wellness shakes. The shots, branded as Heal Me, Protect Me, Energize Me and Detoxify Me, feature ingredients including ginger, elderberry, acerola and cayenne. The products are all excellent sources of vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc, according to the company. They also are formulated with prebiotics.

“Now more than ever, consumers are looking for ways to boost their immune system, so it was the perfect time for our introduction into the wellness shot category as our Immunity+ Shots provide a natural way to boost immunity and overall health,” said Cindy Kasindorf, founder of Remedy Organics.

In November 2020, PepsiCo, Inc. debuted Propel Immune Support, an electrolyte water that contains 100% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C and 30% zinc per 20-oz bottle. Containing zero grams of sugar and 5 calories, Propel Immune Support comes in orange raspberry and lemon blackberry flavors.

“Propel Immune Support offers those with active lifestyles a way to replace electrolytes lost in sweat while also supporting a healthy immune system with vitamin C and zinc — at a time when it’s needed most,” a PepsiCo spokesperson said.

Also in November 2020, Uncle Matt’s Organic launched Ultimate Immune Orange Juice Beverage, made with organic orange juice, elderberry, 300% of the daily dose of vitamin C, 50% vitamin D and 25% zinc.

“Over the past six months, families have turned to what they associate with daily immune support: vitamin C-rich orange juice,” said Susan McLean, vice president of marketing and innovation at Uncle Matt’s Organic. “As a mom, I was looking for even more ways to naturally boost my family's immune health during this unprecedented time, and I kept circling back to these powerfully-proven ingredients: vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc. This trifecta of vitamins — together with the antioxidant elderberry — is the ‘ultimate’ in immunity support.”  

Around the same time, Cloud Water Brands released a new range of functional sparkling beverages called Cloud Water + Immunity. The drinks are formulated with 100% of the daily value of vitamin D and zinc.

“As consumers become more educated about immunity, they recognize that what they eat and drink can help protect their body and support their immune systems,” said Marc Siden, CEO of Cloud Water Brands. “These times have given us an opportunity to think about what consumers are looking for and how we can help deliver that. As a brand we have been committed to innovating evidence-based functional products that support consumer’s minds and their bodies.”

View slideshow of new immunity-centric products.