To boost immunity and overall health and wellness within the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers are increasingly seeking out functional food, beverage, and supplement products that they believe might aid in the body’s defenses. Our newly released report, Functional Food & Beverage and Supplements 2020, finds that at least half (55%) of adult consumers claim to use functional food/beverage solutions to treat or prevent a specific condition, including general prevention efforts. Putting functionality in context, the report finds that long-term shifts in health and wellness culture and more recent influencers, information, and events have formed key narratives to take hold among consumers, one example being "iconic American staples = empty calories." This narrative is further defined by consumers believing that healthful, functional foods stand in contrast to iconic brands of staple foods, a difference that is observable in food’s physical properties and effects. As described by one consumer, "When I was a kid, I ate Wonder Bread … you could like ball it up into a little ball, and I don't think that's how bread's supposed to be. This [Ezekiel bread] is how bread is supposed to be … full of minerals, vitamins… amino acids. It makes everybody feel full."

Functional Food & Beverage and Supplements 2020has its roots in both the long-running Hartman Group tracking studies on Health + Wellness (the most recent wave published in 2019) and the 2018 seminal Modern Beverage Culture study. The study was conceived to extend understanding of the important elements of the functional solutions space included in prior studies. The fielding of the report coincided with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and, realizing that the resulting anxiety along with stay-at-home orders would have profound effects on the results, a special chapter in the report is devoted to the disruptive impacts on household routines and the pandemic’s role as a catalyst for engagement with health and wellness, most notably in terms of the use of supplements and functional foods and/or beverages. While our Health + Wellness 2019 study highlighted rising anxiety as a primary health issue facing consumers, this new report finds that confronted with the pandemic fear of contagion and faced with increased stress of daily life, it is not surprising that the issue of anxiety continues to be prominent. Routine activities such as work, shopping, dining out, and childcare have all been disrupted and have contributed to a national mood that feels generally anxious and uncertain. Concerns around immunity and energy are also impacting how consumers gauge their health needs. Many consumers spoke to us about their search for support from supplements and other dietary enhancements.

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