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Consumer Interest in Immune Health Drives Demand for Functional Ingredients

Functional Ingredients Functional Ingredients

With 42 percent of global consumers now proactively looking for products that can improve their health, to meet consumer demand for the products that provide the benefits they’re searching for, it’s vital for manufacturers to understand the market drivers, and what’s motivating consumer choice.

Non-GMO Project

For manufacturers and brands operating in the well-being category, the immune support space is rich with opportunities. Products that speak to consumers’ almost universal desire to maintain their health is an important callout for both manufacturers and for the consumer. Nevertheless, it is a competitive field. Developing the right proposition to appeal to different consumer groups in different parts of the world is critical to the chances of success.

The More You Know

Consumer research is one of the best ways to grasp consumer sentiment. Insights into demographics, interest in products, and even overall awareness of immune health benefits can help a manufacturer size up opportunities to innovate to meet consumer demand. As well, understanding the drivers governing consumers’ product selection and purchase could be the key to unlocking the full potential opportunity.

A recent global survey asked more than 11,000 consumers in 14 global markets about their reasons for buying healthy lifestyle products. Nearly two thirds chose immune system support, ahead of healthy bones and joints, good digestive health, improve energy levels and heart health support. Additionally, one in five (20 percent) listed immune system support as their No. 1 reason for purchasing healthy lifestyle products, ahead of healthy bones and joints, heart health, digestive health and energy levels.

This proprietary research shows the rich potential of the immune support space for manufacturers and brands in the well-being category. But potential is just that—potential—unless it’s acted upon.

Why Is Immune Health so Important?

Immune health is on everyone’s radar these days. Study after study is showing the role immunity plays, not just in warding off illness, but in maintaining overall health. In the past, consumers of all ages and need-states were taking a reactive, quick-fix to their health and wellness. Today the story has evolved, and people are moving to a more proactive, preventative approach.

One of the characteristics of immunity as a health goal is that everyone wants it. Consumers are increasingly interested in seeing immune health benefits in their favorite food, beverage and supplement products, and trends, such as the growth of sports nutrition and population aging, will also fuel demand. Families with children, athletes and people experiencing lifestyle stress are all seeking an immune health boost, although perhaps for different reasons. Immune health is also one of the benefits most likely to be sought by seniors, so population aging will also fuel growth in the category. Many product formats cross these categories. As an example, beverages with immune health benefits can be targeted at a near-universal range of demographic groups, because they appeal to so many different types of consumers.

However, much of this potential is currently untapped, so there’s plenty of room for innovative manufacturers. For example, despite high levels of interest, only 2 percent of children’s food and drink products launched globally between 2012 and 2017 carried an immune system claim.

Ingredient Information

Consumers are turning to nutrition and healthy lifestyle products, such as functional foods, beverages and dietary supplements to support their immune health. But there’s a lot of information out there on immune health products. With more consumers worldwide doing their own research, they’re not just seeking reassurance about claims substantiation but are taking the matter into their own hands.

Our own consumer research found that key motivators encouraging consumers to purchase immune support products include:

• Transparency: At the point of sale, consumers in many markets like to see clear information on the label regarding efficacy. In China, 48 percent of respondents said they like to see the benefits of a healthy lifestyle product explained and supported on the packaging. In Mexico, the figure is 50 percent and in Indonesia it is as high as 63 percent.

• Supported Claims: Consumers also see research or scientific data claims on the product as a top purchase driver. In Brazil and Thailand, 51 percent of consumers considered research data a top driver while in the U.S. and Spain, that number is 40 percent.

• Recognition: Strong branding also resonates. In Colombia, for example, 51 percent of respondents said recognizing a brand is a driver to purchase. Meanwhile, in Japan, recognizing the active ingredient in a product is the most important factor, and it is the second most important driver in Italy.

These findings give us an insight into how consumers judge nutritional and functional products, and they can be used as benchmarks when profiling potential ingredients. If an ingredient matches the criteria consumers use to make their choices, it is a strong candidate.

Recognize the Opportunity

There is a demonstrated need for both greater transparency and for claims backed by robust scientific evidence. This presents an excellent opportunity for manufacturers that utilize research-backed ingredients from credible brands to build trust in their products. If the evidence is there, consumers will respond to it positively. The research shows that close to half of consumers in various countries around the world are encouraged to purchase a healthy lifestyle product after doing their own research on the product’s ingredients and benefits.

Ultimately, it’s about creating products that stand out on the basis of their quality. One of the best ways to achieve that differentiation is by offering a scientifically substantiated health benefit. The inclusion of proprietary branded ingredients backed by compelling, scientific research will stand out to consumers browsing food, beverage and supplement aisles packed with “me-too” products.

Satisfying Consumer Interests

Wellmune is a proprietary yeast beta 1,3/1,6 glucan (Saccharomyces cervisiae) extracted from the cell wall of a strain of baker’s yeast using a proprietary process. It is supported by more than a dozen published clinical studies demonstrating its safety and its ability to help improve immune health in people of all ages through functional foods, beverages and supplements.

Wellmune is an ideal solution. It is clinically proven to help improve general immune health, can be included in a vast range of food and drink products and boasts high levels of consumer awareness. It offers a combination of sound scientific research and a strong cobranding proposition, delivering on claims and meeting consumers’ desire for transparency. Wellmune has a five-year shelf life, is highly stable and will withstand most processing conditions with no impact on its efficacy.

These attributes make it highly suitable for use in a wide range of food, beverage, and supplement applications. Wellmune can be formulated into a variety of everyday products, including those that research shows consumers want most. NIE

John Quilter, Kerry vice president and general manager, leads the development and growth of Kerry’s ProActive Health technologies. He holds a bachelor of agriculture science from University College Dublin (UCD), a master of food science from UCD and a professional diploma in strategy, innovation and change from UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.

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