Playing the Long Game: Will consumers continue prioritizing immune health support in the long-term?

As consumers adopt immune health strategies long term, they’ll turn to trusted ingredients and science, says market researcher FMCG Gurus.

Immune health is an overarching concern globally due to COVID-19, one that won’t lessen anytime soon. A FMCG Gurus report published in March 2021, titled “How Has COVID-19 Changed Consumer Behavior—Global Report 2021,” shows that up to 19% of people believe the pandemic is something that will significantly influence day-to-day living for several years, with new issues such as emerging variants continuing to exist for some time. Globally, attitudes toward immune health are now broader and more long-lasting. Research conducted by FMCG Gurus in 2021 shows that 65% of global consumers say they have become more conscious about their immune health due to COVID-19. Meanwhile, 68% say immune health is an area of wellbeing they would like to improve over the next twelve months. This increased awareness of vulnerability to illness and the need to stay healthy is not restricted to a specific demographic.

Indeed, consumers are no longer just questioning their vulnerability to the virus but instead expanding their concern to what other long-term health problems they risk because of poor dietary and lifestyle choices. For instance, consumers recognize that they do not get as much rest or exercise as they should, or do not consume adequate nutrition in their diets. This will drive demand for functional products and active ingredient claims. When launching such products, validating such claims will be crucial to dealing with an increasingly skeptical consumer base.

Taking Control

There’s no doubt that consumers are taking a proactive and preventative approach to health. FMCG Gurus research in 2021 shows that 61% of consumers now say they are more conscious about leading a healthy lifestyle to prevent health problems from occurring, while 52% say they are attempting to adopt a long-term approach to health. This is something that will result in people looking to make fundamental changes to their lifestyles such as improving their sleeping patterns and reducing digital device dependency, as well as looking to improve eating and drinking habits.

A total of 76% of people say they are committed to eating and drinking more healthily because of the pandemic, reflecting how a high proportion are not satisfied with their dietary habits. When looking to improve eating and drinking patterns, consumers will adopt a two-pronged strategy. Firstly, they will adopt a back-to-basic approach to nutrition, looking to increase their intake of fresh food and fruit and vegetables, seeking out products they deem to be natural and nutritious. They will also look to reduce their intake of sugar, especially as much attention is given to the link between obesity and poor immune health.

Secondly, 44% of the population also say they are now making greater efforts to seek out functional food and drink products positioned around active ingredient claims. In recent years, consumers have been more attentive to product labeling and have made greater efforts to research different ingredients. Ultimately, consumers will want products that carry a variety of health and ingredient claims simultaneously, for efficacy and convenience purposes.

Building Trust

Although consumers are more proactive in addressing their immunity as health goals shift towards disease management, they are becoming more skeptical about the health and wellness industry in general. This is because consumers can feel that brands do not have their best interests at heart and can make misleading claims to capitalize on consumers desperate for instant health solutions. As such, products that contain branded ingredients and that afford strong scientific evidence on packaging to support claims will be highly appealing to these shoppers moving forward.

2022 is a year that will be charactered by continued levels of uncertainty, with the consequences of the pandemic continuing to linger. Moreover, the ongoing emergence of new variants will further impact confidence and fear over health. For dietary supplement, food, and nutrition marketers, it is important to recognize that the increased focus on immune health is not a short-term trend that will pass once the pandemic is finally over; instead, it reflects how consumers are looking to stay fit and active until later in life while being more conscious about their current diets and lifestyles.

Mike Hughes is head of research and insight at market research firm FMCG Gurus (United Kingdom; www.fmcggurus.com). For more information, please contact FMCG Gurus at info@fmcggurus.com.