Immune health, emotional health drive the functionalization of food and beverages

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Immune health will be a crucial growth driver for functional foods, according to Innova’s 2020 Consumer Survey.

The report found that 60% of consumers worldwide are looking for food and beverage products that support their immune health, and one-third of respondents said they have increased concerns about immune health in 2020 compared to 2019. The most significant increases were among millennials, ages 36 to 45, and younger Gen Xers.

In the survey, choosing naturally nutrient-rich foods was one of the top means of achieving immune health, only getting enough sleep and being physically fit. Overall, nearly 60 percent of consumers worldwide said they are looking for foods and beverages to help them achieve this goal.

Immune health is one of the fastest-growing health claims in food and beverages. According to Innova, excluding supplements, immune support claims are currently focused on three foods and beverages, including dairy products such as yogurt and fermented drinks, sports nutrition products and infant and toddler products.

Innova data shows that dairy launches worldwide have grown at a compound annual growth rate of 6% over the past five years, with dairy with immune health claims growing at an average yearly rate of 27% and yogurt at 37%. 2020 saw a 2% increase in the number of global launches of sports nutrition products with immune health claims, accounting for 11% of all immune health products.

For example, Pepsi’s functional beverage brand Propel launched Propel Immune Support in 2020, claiming to promote immune support while replenishing electrolytes lost after exercise.

In total, these three categories account for 73% of new product immune campaigns in 2020. Smaller but growing types include soft drinks and hot beverages, particularly juices and teas.

In addition, with the increasing social pressures of a fast-paced life, there will be a constant stream of emotional problems. Currently, consumers are under an unprecedented level of stress and are actively seeking products that promote relaxation and mental clarity.

As a result, emotional wellness has emerged as a critical growth driver for functional food and beverages, generating new consumer interest in psychologically-based approaches to healthy eating. Due to this, the market for functional foods and beverages related to emotional health is growing.

For example, in the Chinese market, Six Walnuts launched a new product, “Camunin,” to relieve the public’s anxiety and psychological stress during the epidemic, focusing on anti-anxiety, with a variety of stress-relieving, calming and relaxing ingredients such as GABA and L-theanine.

Immune health ingredients are also gradually linked to statements describing “feeling good,” and consumer demand has evolved from monolithic to diversified, improving progressively mental health, relieving fatigue, and improving sleep.

With the new epidemic raging worldwide, immune health and emotional health will continue to be sought after as part of a healthier lifestyle and a more active, holistic approach to health, based on consumer concerns about their own health.

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John Lau.

John Lau.

John Lau, a project manager holding an engineering bachelor's degree, became fascinated with optimizing beverage production equipment during his university days. As an overseas project manager, he firmly believes that educating clients on achieving efficient workflows through customized equipment design is one of the most impactful aspects of his job.

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