The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of consumer behavior and daily life, with more people looking to improve their health and boost immunity to prevent or lessen the severity of illness.
Consumers are concerned about their own health and the health of people with whom they may come into contact during the pandemic, such as friends and family. Consumers are buying more supplements or vitamins to protect their immune system due to COVID-19, and some are also buying food and beverage products to boost their immune systems.
Food as Medicine
Many consumers believe in the concept of “food as medicine” and eat healthy foods to prevent health problems or treat specific symptoms they are experiencing. Improving gut health or immunity through food is a key area of focus for marketers and consumers alike. For instance, many consumers seek out foods or beverages with probiotics or prebiotics due to the perception that these products improve the gut microbiome.
Foods that are called “superfoods” are purported to have higher nutrient density. Many fruits, vegetables, and “ancient grains” have been introduced or re-introduced to Western markets using this marketing term or the similar terms “superfruit” or “supergrain.” Consumers may seek out so-called “superfoods” to eat whole for increased nutrition.
Options that are more convenient are packaged products with added “superfood” ingredients such as nutrition bars, shakes, and juice. Some products with “superfood” blends may have high levels of antioxidants or vitamins, and thus may have a positive association with natural immunity.
The Gut Health/Immunity Connection
Medical professionals and researchers are increasingly finding that there are links between immunity and gut health. Gut bacteria and the body’s immune system interact significantly. According to an article by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, much of your immune system is actually based in your GI tract. Cells in the lining of the GI system excrete antibodies into the gut, and there appears to be a link between a healthy gut microbiome and overall health.
Many doctors and nutritionists recommend eating more foods with nutrients that promote gut health and potentially boost immunity. A healthy lifestyle promoting good gut health and immunity features regular exercise, limited ingestion of processed/refined foods, and a diverse diet with adequate dietary fiber, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Where to Learn More
Additional analysis of the market for packaged foods with immunity boosting or gut health claims can be found in the June 2021 Packaged Facts report Immunity Boosting Foods: Gut Health & General Immunity Improvement.
About the blogger: Cara Rasch is a food and beverage analyst for Packaged Facts. She studies consumer and industry trends in this space and has a B.A. in economics from Allegheny College.