Examining the consumer’s evolving relationship with immune health

This blog is intended for B2B use and is for educational purposes only. Please note that information contained below should not be read as medical advice.

Looking back over the course of the past couple of years, there have been clear macro market changes that are influencing today’s health and nutrition product development. For brands, the most notable is that consumers are clearly becoming more connected and engaged with managing their own health.

Historically, products such as nutraceuticals or supplements were seen as a way to solve a particular health problem. However, accelerated by a global pandemic that brought the body’s defences – the immune function – to the forefront, consumers are looking to become more proactive and support better overall health every day – not just when problems occur. The proliferation in today’s daily vitamin and mineral supplements category is a great example of this changing behaviour in action.

The growth in immune health supplements is demonstrated by statistics published by intelligence firm Grand View Research, which valued the global market at over $55Bn in 2020, and projects a robust compound annual growth rate of 11.3% to 2028.

The commercial opportunity is capturing the attention of nutraceutical brands, but to create immune health products that speak to the demands of today’s consumer, brands and their formulators need to stay acutely aware of the market’s changing needs and the reasons behind them, using these trends to anticipate further changes and shape the development of new products.

How has the consumer’s relationship with ‘immune health’ changed, and what does it tell developers and formulators in the health and nutrition sector?

Renewed focus on gut health

Mindful consumers are actively educating themselves on immune health. However, there is a disconnect in terms of how this can be supported. The term ‘immune system’ tends to evoke thoughts of white blood cells and antibodies, but science is uncovering the influence of ‘good’ gut bacteria too. Advancing science, in combination with piqued interest from the consumer, highlights gut microbiome-oriented immune health products as a potentially lucrative and effective vehicle.

The re-energised interest in gut health as it is related to immunity should not come as a surprise – around 70% of the immune system is located in the digestive system.

The key piece of the puzzle in understanding the relationship between gut health and immunity is the potential to increase the levels of ‘good’ gut bacteria in the gut, enabling them to exert a positive influence on immune health.

Brands and product formulators looking to create functional food and supplement products with real consumer appeal should not underestimate the potential of gut microbiome modulation, and ways to support ‘good’ gut bacteria that are known to play a positive role in immunity. One of the most stable and versatile options for this is prebiotic fibre, including our own multi award-winning prebiotic galactooligosaccharide (GOS) ingredient, Bimuno® GOS.

Scepticism of ‘immune boosting’ claims

The conscious consumer is wising up to the term ‘immune boosting’ in health and wellbeing products. Scientifically, ‘immune boosting’ doesn’t mean anything; it’s too vague and consumers are looking for more depth.

In terms of what immune response looks like, we often see this manifested as symptoms such as a fever, congestion or runny nose, as the body responds to perceived threats. A product that claims to ‘boost immunity’ would only exacerbate these natural immune responses.

The consumer desire to better understand immune health and terminology demonstrates this proactivity that is seen across the health and nutrition sector. Product developers have an opportunity to introduce more of the fundamental science behind immune health products, rather than sweeping overall statements in promotion and product positioning in the market.

Ultimate convenience

It’s also becoming clear that the line between food and nutrition is narrower than ever. This is seen in two important ways for nutritional product developers.

The first is the move towards the ‘nutrition plus’ trend, which sees consumers demanding better nutritional profiles in products across the board. This can be achieved through reformulation and finding standalone ingredients that bring added nutritional value to the product, without impacting characteristics such as texture, mouthfeel or flavour.

The second, with perhaps the more abundant opportunity for health and nutrition brands, is that consumers are engaging more with functional foods. Shoppers are choosing functional foods that act as a like-for-like replacement for products they are already consuming.

This opens the door for functional food developers to get creative and create new opportunities in the process. With the right stable and versatile ingredients, products such as a baked snacks or dairy beverages can become functional foods while remaining part of a staple dietary pattern.

The role of Bimuno GOS

Brands developing their own immunity focused supplements rely on scientifically backed ingredients to build trust and capture market share.

Bimuno GOS has been extensively studied into its safety and efficacy to become the most researched prebiotic of its kind. The gut health ingredient is supported by over 100 scientific publications, including more than 20 clinical trials.

Bifidobacteria, the beneficial bacteria that are nourished by the prebiotic fibre composition of Bimuno, are connected with supporting immune function. This relationship points towards prebiotics as a key method of approach in develop immunity-supporting products.

By putting scientific study at the heart and translating that into a highly adaptable and stable ingredient for better gut health, Clasado aims to make immune health product formulation easier and faster.

In summary, the consumer is reaching peak interest in immune health, proactively seeking out information and becoming more sceptical of buzz words in the process.

For product developers looking to connect with this engaged audience, gut microbiome modulation with ingredients such as prebiotics, could be an effective avenue of exploration for new product development projects.

Contact us today and learn how we can help you harness the power of prebiotics for immune health product development.