Taking the rough with the smooth
COVID-19 continues to dominate headlines, with warnings about the need for social distancing, and the potential dire economic consequences of the pandemic. Some industries, however, have had no option but to keep calm and carry on – none more so than the food, beverage and dietary supplement sectors, all of which have risen to the challenge. It goes without saying that eating is a basic human need, and many have stockpiled supplies in recent times, but neither fully explains such rapid innovation in the industry right now. It’s also true that consumers are scrutinising their food consumption like never before, selecting products that promise preventive health benefits, while also being natural and sustainable. According to recent market research by Innova Market Insights, 45 per cent of consumers worldwide are increasingly turning to food and beverages to support their immune systems. In the field of dietary supplements, meanwhile, 91 per cent of those who take such products are doing so more frequently, according to a survey commissioned by the US Council for Responsible Nutrition(CRN).
Shoring up defences
Top of the consumer wishlist right now is immune health. Even those who previously thought their body’s defences were good are now paying closer attention to their diet, and the need for additional support in the form of supplements. This is where manufacturers must take note: In addition to micronutrients such as vitamins C and D, zinc and selenium, intestinal health is also a key focus. The intestine is not only the gateway to the body, but also has the most influence on the immune system. However, a diverse and balanced microbiome is essential in order for it to properly fulfil its role. It is no wonder, then, that ingredients such as prebiotic fibres and fermented products (think kefir or kimchi) are on the rise and driving manufacturer innovation.
Blood glucose management is also a major issue – particularly as recent studies have revealed that those who are overweight or have type 2 diabetes are more likely to suffer severe symptoms if they contract the coronavirus. In addition to tasty wholemeal products which can replace white flour foodstuffs, other dietary solutions include low-glycaemic carbohydrates and ingredients that allow sugar substitution without compromising on taste.
Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant substances, whether in shots, capsules or everyday foods, can also provide preventive dietary support, and can be derived from natural plant-based sources if preferred. Transparent and clean labels remain a key focus for consumers, too. This applies more to functional foods than dietary supplements but, even so, it’s ever more important that ingredient lists are comprehensible and health benefits clearly communicated.
Protecting the planet
When a virus targets the world, bringing life as we know it to a halt and pushing economies and health systems to the limit, it is a natural reaction to focus more closely on how we treat the earth and its resources. As the world stood still at the height of the pandemic, the negative influence of mankind on the environment became even more apparent. Smog in big cities disappeared, the air became cleaner and coastal waters clearer. So it’s no wonder that consumers are questioning how they can play a positive role in the protection of the planet, and are increasingly turning to organic alternatives, as well as less processed or plant-based products.
Spotlight on supply chains
In the wake of closed borders and global lockdowns, the need for a secure supply chain has never been more evident. Many companies are therefore rethinking their approach, and looking to mix regional and global raw material sourcing – regional sourcing has a positive connotation, but obtaining ingredients from further afield means local problems such as strikes or storms can be avoided. But it is not just about the food supply chain: In the first few months of the pandemic, a stable supply of medicines was problematic too. As a result, consumers with minor ailments are increasingly turn to nature’s healing powers, leading to a surge in demand for nutraceuticals and botanical ingredients based on centuries old traditional knowledge.
By Julien Bonvallet, Brand Director