Functional care

Consumers already had an interest in functional food and beverages pre-pandemic, but it has grown since, with immunity-boosting solutions now being seen as particularly relevant. Google Trends Data showed a 500% spike in searches for “immunity boosting food” in line with COVID-19 in 2020. While functional care products that help boost the immune system and balance the stomach saw a 43% rise in consumption occasions since the start of the pandemic, according to our Demand Space study, placing it fifth in our growth list.

Opportunity – Immunity boosters

More than half of global respondents in our research this year say they are increasingly choosing products that support the immune system, rising to around two-thirds in Nigeria (68%), India (67%) and South Africa (65%). Our immunity-boosting study shows that consumers are often not choosing specialised products, but well-known categories with traditional health associations, notably juice and dairy – plant-based rates highly, too. Product associations vary by country: value-added white milk over-indexes for its immunity-boosting association in China (65% versus 36% globally), for example, and has seen consumption increase considerably as a result.

Naturalness is key to immunity-boosting products. Across the two dozen categories we assessed, natural emerged as the #1 reason for consumption, together with the effectiveness of the solution and providing the right nutrients. Naturalness is also the reason consumers tend to focus on food as an immunity-boosting solution, rather than other forms of supplements: they also see it as healthier, safer and free from additives and preservatives. There are regional differences, however, with more than a third preferring supplements in China (39%) and the USA (35%).

In terms of products, juice/nectars, tea-based, dairy products and shots are the most consumed for immunity reasons, again while not being perceived as specialised. Vitamins and citrus are the best-known ingredients and also the most interesting for the future.

Immunity boosting is a complex topic and is not widely understood by consumers, especially non-users of immunity-boosting products. There is a need/opportunity both to educate consumers on ingredients and their benefits, and to provide clarity through simple, factual information. Health claims need to be credible, not exaggerated, and the benefits need to be easy to understand. The advice of experts is important to consumers – looked for in healthcare professionals, online or via TV programmes.

Notably, the main benefit consumers look for in an immunity-boosting product is as much mental as physical: they want to feel mentally active, energised, resilient and able to handle stress well. Other perceived benefits vary by age and gender, including glowing appearance (young women), confidence (men) and feeling rested and protecting one’s long-term health (older people).

Sustainability is a fundamental package requirement for an immunity-boosting product, demonstrating once again that health and the environment go hand in hand. Environmentally friendly is the #1 packaging requirement mentioned, cited by 50% of respondents, significantly ahead of functionality.

Case study – Dabur Real Immuno Mango+, Nepal

Two juice packages

Dabur Nepal has been successful in winning the trust of discerning consumers with its high-quality products. In response to increased consumer demand for immunity-boosting products during the pandemic, the company launched Real Immuno Mango+, Nepal’s first fortified juice, in July 2021.

Fortified with the “Power of 5”, i.e. five proven immunity-boosting ingredients – honey, tulsi, ashwagandha, vitamin C and zinc – the new product offers a perfect blend of health and taste. Combining Dabur’s in-depth understanding of local needs with Tetra Pak knowledge and innovation, it is already proving popular with consumers. “The concept of Real Immuno Mango+ was appreciated by consumers as they found it highly relevant during this COVID-19 situation,” says Abhaya Gorkhalee, Head of Marketing at Dabur Nepal.

Real Immuno Mango+ is priced at NPR30/- for single serve Tetra Brik® Aseptic 180ml and NPR250/- for Tetra Brik® Aseptic 1 litre. Distribution has been extended across Nepal, and the launch supported with a full range of activities including TV commercials featuring celebrity endorsements, digital, print and on-ground activations.

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