Consumer attitudes towards health and wellbeing have been significantly influenced by the impact of COVID-19. This has resulted in more consumers seeking out functional products to boost the immune system, especially as they become more conscious about vulnerability to disease and illness. Whilst the threat and uncertainty of the virus continues to linger – especially as 16% say that the virus will impact on daily lives for many years to come – demand will continue for such functional products. Overall, consumers prefer functional food and drink products to nutritional supplements. This is because such products are deemed to be tastier and easier to incorporate into daily lives. 

Over the last twelve months, consumers have re-evaluated their health as they have questioned all aspects of diets and lifestyle and the impact this is having on their long-term wellbeing. COVID-19 is something that has had an adverse effect on confidence over health. Indeed, 60% of consumers say that they have become more conscious about their immunity as a result of the virus. Additionally, only 49% of consumers say that are confident with their immune health, compared to 54% who said this twelve months earlier. However, it would be one-dimensional to believe that concern over immune health is something that has only been triggered by the virus. For instance, 24% of global consumers say that their health has worsened over the last two years. This shows that health problems such as obesity, digestive health, and heart health problems are as much to blame for concerns over immunity. 

Regardless of the reason, there has been a surge in consumers taking a proactive approach to improving their immune health over the last twelve months. A total of 70% said this in 2020 compared to 53% twelve months. When addressing immune health, diet is a key area that consumers look to improve. This is because consumers recognize that poor dietary habits are something that could be increasing the risk of health problems, especially in the long-term. Consumers are taking a two-pronged approach to boosting health. As well as avoiding dietary evils, they are also seeking out products that offer a convenient health boost. For instance, a total of 38% of consumers say that they have started seeking out/seeking out fortified/functional food and drink with health enhancing ingredients as a result of COVID-19. Related to this, iron (82%), vitamin C and omega 3 (both 79%), were the ingredients most likely associated with boosting immunity. 

In comparison, only 14 said that they were turning to nutritional supplements to boost their immune health. Overall, consumers are more likely to say that they prefer food and drink products over supplements when trying to boost their health. Given that 79% of consumers say that they plan to eat more healthily as a result of COVID-19, demand for functional food and drink products will continue to grow over the next couple of years. This is because irrespective of whether accurate of not, functional food and drink is seen as tastier, more affordable, and easier to incorporate into daily diets. In comparison, consumers can be concerned about issues such as safety, cost, and ease of digestion when turning to nutritional supplements. 

Whilst functional food and drink products are of high appeal to consumers, the industry needs to take into account the issue of affordability. The current economic uncertainty is something that is significantly impacting on financial wellbeing and resulting in consumers making attempts to cut down spend on shopping. As such, it is crucial that functional products are deemed to be affordable. 

COVID-19 drives demand
for functional food and drink