The changing immune health landscape
The ongoing pandemic has had a range of impacts on the nutrition industry—shifting priorities, attitudes and consumption habits, often for the long term. Immune health brands in particular have had to adapt to new consumer needs and increases in demand. In this article, we look at changes to European immune health markets, focusing on trends that we expect to characterise the 'new normal,' and ingredients, such as botanicals, that are likely to grow in popularity.
The surge in demand
Unsurprisingly, demand for immune health solutions increased significantly in the first half of 2020. A Givaudan survey of consumers in the EAME regions in February found that “strengthening your immune system” resonated with 93% of consumers. By April, 44% had consumed vitamins or supplements, or food or beverages with health benefits, over the past month. Over half (53%) were interested in consuming more vitamins or supplements to strengthen their immune system, while 62% were interested in consuming more food or beverage products with immune health benefits. Reflecting this, the immune health market has grown, with supplements, beverages and dairy the main delivery forms.
Combining ‘back-to-basics’ with science
The global health crisis has naturally led to consumers focusing on ways to lead a healthier lifestyle, often by turning to nutritional solutions. Immune health brands can respond to this need in two ways. One is a 'back-to-basics' approach which appeals to a sense of tradition. The other is to demonstrate efficacy through scientific evidence.
Botanicals with proven immune health benefits can support both these strategies, as can natural micronutrients such as fermented wholefood rich in nutrients and acerola vitamin C. Although, of course, manufacturers must check for compliance with local regulation, there has been increased demand across the EAME region.
Botanicals for stress
The crisis has been an unforeseen shock, creating anxiety for millions of people across Europe. We are therefore likely to see the emergence of new herbal formulations to cope with this stress, and increased interest in immune health ingredients such as elderberry or acerola vitamin C, in combination with herbals for relaxation such as chamomile and lemon balm.
Renewed focus on the microbiome
Consumers are increasingly aware of the importance of microbiome health, not only for digestion, but also for a number of health outcomes, including immune system support. We foresee an accelerating pace of innovation in the microbiome and fermented space, and more solutions featuring clean-label ingredients that are friendly to microbiome diversity.
Personalised immune health
Another likely effect will be the acceleration of the personalised nutrition trend. Immune health companies will be rewarded for successfully addressing the needs of specific consumer groups, for example seniors, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and people with long-term conditions such as diabetes. Innovative brands will find new solutions with immune health support benefits, which consumers can take daily, such as smoothies, shots, beverages or dairy. Consumers are also likely to respond positively to products that offer 'enjoyable wellness' through new delivery formats, and those that offer less processed ingredients.
Trust: The foundtion of the new normal
Many of the consumer habits formed in recent months are here to stay. A more intense focus on health will increase demand for nutrition with immune health support benefits, and also create new patterns of consumption. Consumers will expect more from immune health products and be more sceptical about their benefits. The natural health industry needs to maintain trust through a combination of tradition, transparency and scientific substantiation.
Disclaimer: This document is intended for business-to-business communication only. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information provided and its uses must be checked for compliance under appropriate local regulations.
About the author: Anne Passemard is Innovation Director EAME, Functional and Nutritional Ingredients at Naturex. Naturex’s all-inclusive botanical solutions make them the optimal partner for immune health brands looking to build 'the new normal.'
 Givaudan EAME “Food for Health” online survey, Feb 2020
 Givaudan EAME Covid19 online survey, April 2020