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Consumers shift to immunity boosting foods as the pandemic rages unabated

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Over the last few months, consumers across the world have changed in massive proportions and are continually developing newer habits. Amongst them all, the most pronounced has been the massive shift in consumer perspective towards health and wellness. The last few months have seen consumers taking a more proactive approach to healthier eating and exercising more – for maintaining health and immune resiliency. They are now, more than ever, inclined towards wholesome and healthy food products that promise vitamins, minerals and other healthy immunity boosting ingredients.

While the proclivity for healthy products, especially immunity-boosting food and drink is not new, the pandemic has accelerated the trend manifold.

“We can see it in conversations we’re having with our customers and colleagues, and the kind of invitations we’re getting from suppliers to webinars and events, and it’s backed by our own research. We knew that interest was already high in functional products – with consumers searching for terms such as ‘digestive health’ and ‘brain health’ – but recently we have seen a significant shift towards searches on products and ingredients that can boost people’s immune systems. There’s no doubt this has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” states Giancarlos La Rocca, Global Category Manager, Tetra Pak.

According to a research by London-based market research firm Mintel, the COVID-19 outbreak has prompted 45 percent of consumers in Europe to add more nutrients into their diet, while 29 percent reported being more interested in foods that can support your immune system since the start of the pandemic.

Google Trends data also shows an approximate 500 percent increase in searches for immunity in food and drink worldwide by week, following the onset of COVID-19.

La Rocca further adds that immunity boosting food products fall into two basic categories – the first focuses on nutrition and ingredients and the second category encompasses products that can boost overall wellbeing.

“The first is focused on nutrition and ingredients. Here, we are talking about nutrients such as vitamins and probiotics that can have a direct positive impact on the immune system. The second category is more holistic – products that can boost overall wellbeing, for example by helping you to sleep, or supporting you while you exercise,” he says.

The Indian Immunity Boosting Product Market

According to a paper by TechSci Research titled India Immunity Boosting Packaged Products Market, by Product Category (Supplements, Beverages, Food and Others), by Distribution Channel (Convenience Stores, Specialty Stores, Others), by Region, Competition, Forecast & Opportunities, FY2026, the future holds immense opportunities for the segment in India.

The research outlines that the Indian Immunity Boosting Packaged Products Market is projected to reach $ 347 million by FY 2026 owing to increasing consciousness and focus among Indian consumers towards preventive health. Further, rising per capita income and expanding middle-class and urban population are some of the key factors fueling the growth of immunity boosting packaged products market. An increasingly busy lifestyle is resulting in lack of nutrition and fitness among people, which is creating a huge demand for immunity boosting packaged products across the country.’

The research further states that the Indian immunity boosting products market can be categorized based on product category, distribution channel and region wise. In the product segment, the bestselling immunity boosters include Instant Food, Seeds, Beverages, Juice, Tea-Coffee and Probiotic Shots, followed by Syrups, Supplements, Mixes, Capsules, Powders, etc.

The entire market in India has traditionally been dominated by the supplements segment, till FY 2020 owing to easy product availability of trusted manufactures and proven health claims. Post the pandemic, the food segment has come to the fore and is expected to register a healthy CAGR till 2026 propelled by focus on preventive healthcare in the country and broad range of products offered by the manufactures.

Based on distribution channels, the immunity boosting market in India can be further categorized into convenience stores, specialty stores, supermarkets and hypermarkets, medical stores and online. Convenient stores are the forerunner of the segment with most sales coming from this segment. While this trend is expected to continue, online channels are rapidly gaining momentum, especially during the pandemic.

Opportunity for Retailers

This growing trend has further bolstered the already growing market for natural ingredients and immune boosting wellness products. An increasing number of brands and retailers, both new and established, are making a beeline to capitalize on the rising health awareness triggered by the pandemic.

“Wellness is a $4 million market in India and has been an ongoing trend for the last four to five years. However, because of the pandemic people are looking for more natural ingredients and immune boosting wellness products,” explains Sushant Dash, President – Packaged Beverages (India, Bangladesh and Middle East) at Tata Consumer Products Limited (TCPL). TCPL has recently launched a range of new teas with immunity boosting ingredients like tulsi, ginger, cardamom and brahmi.

Kwality Foods, another prominent name from the FMCG segment has launched a range of Muesli with Turmeric, Ginger and Honey. Benefits of the ingredients include turmeric which contains curcumin, a flavonoid that supports a healthy immune response, thereby promoting general well-being. Ginger has been used for thousands of years for the treatment of numerous ailments, such as colds, nausea, arthritis, migraines, and hypertension. Honey is also a good source of antioxidant, with anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.

Orika, a brand by Paras Spices Pvt. Ltd., launched its range of immunity boosting Turmeric Immunity Mix that has 100 times more bio availability of curcumin as compared to regular turmeric drinks.

What the Future Holds

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a new consumer trends in health and wellness. Over the last few months, immunity has become one of the most important part of human lives. As such, consumer interest in immunity-enhancing food and drinks has skyrocketed ushering in untold opportunities for brands and retailers.

According to Mintel, the number of patents for immunity-improving food and drinks continues to increase by the day. Recent patent filings also focus on specialised nutrition or supplements to improve immune function among the elderly and individuals suffering from chronic diseases.

Also, although the immunity boosting food market segment is hitherto dominated by big brands, Mintel states that ‘recent scientific developments in the field of botanicals to improve immune health have created an opportunity for major brands as well as start-ups to launch products containing these ingredients’.

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