While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought many challenges, it has also brought to light critical concerns ranging from supply chain issues to worker inequalities. Another big positive from the pandemic is the growing concern about building and maintaining a strong immune system.
But as consumers dig deeper into their immune health, they are also becoming more demanding of the products they buy. Not only do brands need to create immune products that reach new levels of benefit and effectiveness, but they also need to deliver value for money and then get the message out to end users. It’s a big challenge.
Mike Weiser, Ph.D., senior director of R&D/innovation for PanTheryx, said consumers are now looking for immune products with a broad mandate. “They’re looking for ingredients that are natural, good-tasting, convenient, and most importantly, have clinical science to back them up from an efficacy perspective,” he said. “Brands that have been successful rely on combinations of functional ingredients that tick all of these boxes.” Gone, he added, are the days of relying on single immune ingredients, like vitamin C or zinc.
Kevin Krall, Marinova’s Director of Business Development, noted that today’s consumers don’t just want products that deliver on these claims, “They also want environmentally friendly products,” gravitating toward brands that defend and maintain an authentic social conscience.
The emerging category can also start a new conversation about immune health. To help consumers move up the immunity continuum, suppliers and manufacturers need to broaden the dialogue, said Paul Schulick, master herbalist, industry veteran and founder of For The Biome. While the industry has a major contribution to make, it’s only scratching the surface with product offerings, he said, noting a big opportunity for U.S. players to innovate and elevate science. , product quality and efficiency.
Plus, he added, the idea of what immunity means and how people should build it up is ridiculous. “Even the notion of an ‘immune season’ is nonsense because our immune system works 24/7, 12 months a year. It’s always busy.
Undoubtedly, these products have wide appeal. Liki von Oppen-Bezalel, Ph.D., Director of Business Development for TriNutra Ltd., said, “Consumers are simplifying in all areas of their lives, including wanting the same or more benefits with fewer supplements. She explained: “The focus now is on the effects the immune system has on other health systems – the systemic benefits.” Awareness of whole-body health, she pointed out, also gives immune health supplements an added aura as value-added multitaskers.
The new understanding that immune health is not an isolated system is driving the category’s growth – “it is linked to digestive health, stress, mood, anxiety, sleep and even health heart disease,” said Sam Michini, vice president of marketing and strategy for Deerland Probiotics & Enzymes. . “At first glance, you wouldn’t connect gut bacteria to their core. But more and more people are indeed discovering the effects of their gut health on all other aspects of their health.
Probiotics have paved the way for multifunctional immune products, with a better understanding of digestion and immune function. But other ingredients, colostrum and mushroom fucoidans, PEA [palmitoylethanolamide] and botanicals, all with strong clinical support for immune health, now appear in products in virtually every structure/function area.
More doesn’t mean easier
Even as immunity becomes a starting point for new product development and innovation, it also presents challenges. Adding multi-functional ingredients to a formula can create technical issues ranging from stability to taste and texture changes in non-supplements. Dosage is another potential issue, Weiser explained, “where you hit the limits of a particular format like a capsule with combined ingredients.” This is where functional ingredients that have multiple benefits come in handy, he added.
Generally, capsules are the most common format for multifunctional products, offering versatility for ingredients and dosage. Mariko Hill, Head of Global Innovation for Gencor, explained, “Capsules offer the most efficient way to deliver such products, as manufacturers can combine all the ingredients and offer multiple capsules per serving.” Although other popular formats are available, such as sparkling and gummies, they often do not allow for high loading and are therefore limited to product innovation, she argued.
Immune Health Awareness Unboxing
Immune supplement differentiation is another key, especially for products that provide closely related benefits like sleep and relaxation, Michini said. While this can be achieved at the formulation level, the communication and marketing must be perfect, he added. “There’s that fine line between providing conveniences (eg, fewer supplements to take) and being perceived as an ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ product with no legitimate benefit, or ‘too good to be true’.… . This is the challenge: to steer consumer perception towards the correct understanding of health benefits in addition to the immune system.
Given the complexity of the immune system itself and the many ways in which immune system-boosting ingredients can affect its function, difficulties abound. “The immune response is a complex set of tissues, cells, and cellular communications that is still being researched for ever-expanding understanding,” explained Jerry Angelini, science education manager at Host Defense Mushrooms. “Natural products can also be complex in how they might support natural immunity. The more we understand both how our immune responses work and the potential support mechanisms of natural products, the more empowered we can feel. comfortable and confident when using natural products to support immune function in healthy individuals.
Editor’s Note: This content is excerpted from a longer feature from Insider’s Immune Health digital magazine. Click the link to read the full article, as well as other niche articles.
Karen Rateman is director, New Leaf Communications, in Arvada, Colorado. She specializes in content marketing strategies and development, corporate communications, public relations and social media for natural brands, dietary supplements and botanical ingredients.