What retailers need to know about immune-boosting food

10 June 2021, 16:32 PM
  • Demand for food and drink products that support the immune system are on the rise, sparked by concerns about Covid-19

As the global Covid-19 pandemic took hold in 2020, the food and drink industry has witnessed the rise of immune-boosting food and drink.

Recent data from Accenture highlighted that six in 10 people are currently worried for their personal health, and almost a quarter are spending more time on self care than they were prior to the pandemic. And research from Mintel finds that consumers’ definition of self care is expanding. In the coming years, Mintel says, nutrition will be practised as self care. For fine food retailers this means there is no reason to be sitting on the sidelines of health food trends and wellness routines – food is now at the centre of the movement.

What are immune-boosting foods?

The human immune system, which consists of various immune cells that are found throughout the body, helps keep us healthy by fighting and preventing infections, from the common cold to Covid-19. Researchers have found that micronutrients, such as Vitamin C, have a big impact on health. Not getting enough of these vitamins and minerals can lead to poor immune function and more frequent disease from viral infections.

According to the researchers, eating a balanced diet with micronutrients including Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, magnesium and zinc plays a key role in maintaining healthy immune function.

Many common foods are a source of Vitamin B6, such as chicken and cereals; Vitamin C, such as tomatoes and citrus fruits; Vitamin E, such as sunflower seeds and oil and almonds; magnesium, such as whole wheat and legumes; and zinc, such as and oysters and beef. By adjusting diet, consumers can reap the health benefits of these foods.
Other food sources can help treat side effects of the body’s immune response, such as ginger for its anti-inflammatory effects.

What impact has Covid had on the immunity trend?

“The Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of having a healthy immune system,” says Daisy Li, associate director of Mintel Food and Drink APAC. “Immunity benefits continue to resonate as people look for ways to support their immune systems and protect themselves from illness. Our research shows that demand for healthy food and drinks has increased as Covid-19 has made healthy eating a higher priority to reducing the risk of chronic diseases.”

According to a survey by Innova Market Insights, six in 10 global consumers are looking for food and beverage products that support their immune health. Innova also found that 54% of shoppers claimed to have spent time educating themselves on ingredients that could boost their immune health due to Covid-19. And this trend will not be short-lived, Daisy says: “The desire to stay healthy will keep consumers engaged with immune-support products, even after the pandemic has subsided.” Consumers are now taking a holistic approach to health, wellbeing and nutrition, and they will increasingly be on the lookout for products that help them meet all these goals at once.

Foods to boost the immune system

The rise of the immunity trend doesn’t mean that fine food independents will have to stock up on Vitamin C supplements, Garlic supplements or other specialist tinctures; food brands are making the most of the health and immunity drive by launching new products that support healthy immune function, while also prioritising high-quality taste.

For instance, Nature’s Heart recently launched a snack range with immune supporting benefits designed to ‘taste good and do good’. Each snack pack includes a combination of fruits, nuts and seeds with key vitamins and minerals that the brand says will help support the immune system. Elsewhere, detox health drink Emunity is making use of the immunity-boosting benefits of nettle, and wellness brand Kacchi London sells a range of condiments and marinades which claim to support digestive health and immunity.

Exploring the new launches hitting the market and taking time out to learn about the foods that support immune system functions with essential nutrients will ensure that retailers can help educate curious customers looking to improve their health and wellbeing.

These trends, which have been magnified by the Covid-19 pandemic, not only offer an opportunity to attract a wider audience as discerning shoppers look for quality food to support a healthy diet, but also to showcase what fine food independents do best: engaging with and educating customers about the latest and greatest speciality food products to hit the market.

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