In India, the launch of new immune health foods can range from turmeric latte as seen in the case of Amul’s Haldi Doodh to bakery brand Bonn, which added turmeric, black pepper, and oregano to its bread products.
As of end March, 66% of the Indian consumers said they were “extremely worried” about the risk of being exposed to COVID-19, Michelle Teodoro, associate director of food science at Mintel Food and Drink told NutraIngredients-Asia.
“As the COVID-19 outbreak hit India in March 2020, consumer interest in improving immunity peaked. As a result, the demand for vitamin C supplements spiked,” she said.
Elsewhere in Australia, interesting new products launched include Pauls Kids’ Immunity Milk, which contains naturally occurring zinc, vitamin A and D.
As for Indonesia, the Bode Hemaviton brand has launched an orange-flavoured, less sugar vitamin C and collagen drink.
Shifts in consumption habits
India’s booming immune health industry was also accompanied by a number of changes in consumption patterns.
This includes the purchase of nutraceuticals from younger consumers and a preference for in-home indulgence, said two health and nutrition companies.
“There are two distinct movements. Firstly, people are seeking more immunity-building nutraceuticals. Earlier on, they were looking for products targeted at specific health issues, such as osteoporosis, arthritis, hypertension,” Sandeep Ahuja, director at VLCC Healthcare told us.
The other trend was that youngsters below 30 years old are starting to prioritise their spending on nutraceuticals, he said.
The beauty and wellness company sells nutraceuticals via its direct-selling business arm VLCC WellScience.
Ahuja said that the bestselling immune boosting products in the past few months were the antioxidant blend Max Orac, green tea extract, and ashwagandha.
Speaking about new innovation, a spokeswoman at Nestle India told us that there has been a shift in preference for premiumisation and in-home indulgence.
“In India, one of the most significant trends has been that of consumers experiencing food brands within the four walls of their homes. There is an increase in in-home indulgence as a way of seeking small pleasure.
“Alongside this, COVID-19 has also led to enormous concern for nutrition, quality and safety of brands and products among consumers,” she said.
Still not enough
Despite the current slate of new product launches, Teodoro said that brands were not doing enough to leverage on consumers’ demand for immune health products.
Citing data from Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD), she said that globally, between Feb and Jun this year, only less than 1% of food, drink, and supplement product launches held an immune system-boosting claim.
The two continents driving the new innovations were Europe and Asia Pacific.
“Immunity-based products will have a continued demand post COVID-19, but current launches show few products are maximising the opportunity to use this claim,” she said.
Where are the opportunities?
Teodoro has pointed out a few opportunities that firms can tap onto when developing a new immune health product, including exploring claims beyond immune health.
These other health aspects which will be as important as immune function would include relieving stress and addressing sleep deprivation.
She explained that this was because so long as vaccines were not yet found, there would be an opportunity for brands “to improve all aspects of consumers’ health” and this included “targeting the factors affecting immunity.”
“Stronger immune health can be obtained by offering products that could combat the factors impacting immunity such as stress, sleep deprivation, weak immunity, and unhealthy gut.
“Targeting other factors affecting immunity can be the key in formulating immunity-boosting products,” she said.
Another opportunity is to tap into new dosage formats, branching beyond the usual supplements format.
One emerging format is cold cereal and meal replacement products, Teodoro said, adding that firms could further explore the food and drink category.
By making products more enjoyable to consume, this will help boost usage frequency, which she believes is an advantage of food and drinks as compared to supplements in the form of pills and tablets.
In terms of emerging ingredients for immune health, postbiotic and parabiotics are gaining traction.
Postbiotic refers to metabolic products of probiotic bacteria, they could come in the form of organic acids, short-chain fatty acids, peptidoglycans, and polysaccharides.
Parabiotics, on the other hand, are non-viable microbial cells or crude cell extracts which confer a benefit to the host.
She pointed to the example of Danone Nutricia’s addition of postbiotics and prebiotics into its Aptamil follow-on formula and made immune and digestive health claims for the product.
Another well-known player in this field is Japan’s House Wellness, which is the innovator behind heat-killed lactobacillus plantarum L-137.