Foreword to Summer 2020 Issue

Focus on Immune Health
By Linda Milo Ohr

Immunity has been a top health concern among consumers for the past several years. With the current COVID pandemic, interest in foods, beverages, and supplements that benefit immune health have steadily grown.

“According to Kerry’s global consumer survey on digestive and immune health – conducted in 2019 – immune system support was the most common reason globally for consumers to buy healthy lifestyle products,” says John Quilter, VP and general manager, Kerry. “However, COVID has accelerated consumer interest in the role of nutrition in immunity, with a 670% increase in Google searches for ‘food’ and ‘immune system’ between February and March. (Source: Google Trends). Furthermore, a recent consumer survey from FMCG Gurus revealed that 72% of American consumers are now more likely to pay attention to nutritional benefits when purchasing food and drink and 50% have increasingly turned to food to boost their immune health (Source: FMCG Gurus Covid-19 Survey, July 2020).”

Dairy is one of the fastest growing categories for immune health, according to a recent webinar hosted by Innova Market Insights (Innova Market Insights, 2020). Another area of growth is hot beverages, especially tea. Herbal tea products, in particular, contain ingredients that are high in nutrients like vitamin C and other healthful ingredients like ginger. Innova also said that innovation in plant-based immunity products is emerging, citing a +31% average annual growth (CAGR 2015-2019). While supplements lead the way in plant-based immune products, sports nutrition and soft drinks are other key categories for new product innovation in plant-based immunity products. An example cited was Once Upon a Farm Dairy-Free Protein Smoothies. Claims include added probiotics for gut and immune health and 6 g plant protein from pumpkin seeds.

Healthy lifestyles and eating balanced, nutritious meals are key for overall health and wellness, but there are some nutrients that play a role in the immune system. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics lists the following nutrients that can be found in a variety of foods: beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, probiotics, and protein (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2018). Most recently, Iddir et al. (2020) highlighted the importance of an optimal status of relevant nutrients to effectively reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, thereby strengthening the immune system during the COVID-10 crisis. The authors mentioned nutrients like protein, zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin D, and dietary fiber. Specifically, consumers are looking for plant-based immunity, probiotics, prebiotics and yeast beta-glucan as ingredients in immune health products.

Read the rest of “Focus on Immune Health” in the September issue of Food Technology magazine to learn more about these sought-after ingredients.

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