To boost immunity and overall health within the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers are increasingly seeking out functional products that they believe might boost immunity and the body’s defenses in the face of stressors to health. As reported in a recent Nutraceutical's World article, "For the year ended (Y/E) Mar. 22, 2020, U.S. total mass multi-outlet (MULO) and convenience store dollar sales of immunity products jumped 199%, vitamins 77%, and gastrointestinal products (which include probiotics) 30%, per IRI’s Apr. 4 “COVID-19: Economy Report.” The number of immunity product buyers in the U.S. increased by 125%; vitamin supplement buyers by 27%."

Even before the pandemic, consumers were already heavily involved with supplements: Our Health + Wellness 2019: From Moderation to Mindfulness report found that 85% of consumers reported having taken at least one type of supplement in the past year, with supplements representing an essential part of most consumers’ health and wellness toolkits. Trends in supplements strongly reflect overarching health and wellness trends in addressing consumer needs beyond the “body-as-machine” mindset. Traditionally, supplements have been used by consumers as nutritional insurance in case they weren’t getting enough necessary nutrients from their diet or lifestyle. Multivitamins, omega-3, and vitamin D are all examples of this mainstream usage model. But supplements are also an easy way to engage with the latest health and wellness trends. Probiotics, adaptogens, nootropics, and botanicals speak to the health and wellness themes of the moment: coping with everyday physical and cognitive stress and overstimulation.

As we've discussed in a previous podcast on the topic of immunity, Core health and wellness consumers' shopping lists often contain foods and ingredients like cinnamon, raw honey, and even shiitake mushrooms, all of which are high in perceived immune-boosting benefits. Supplements and herbal remedies are also key to how Core consumers boost immunity, and particularly during the pandemic, they are likely incorporating additional botanicals and medicinal mushrooms into their repertoire for added functionality.

As we find in our Health + Wellness 2019 report, within health and wellness culture, high levels of supplement usage across demographic groups reflect a preference for “natural” remedies and lifestyle changes compared to use of pharmaceuticals. The idea of food (and supplements) as medicine is now mainstream across all health and wellness consumer segments. Consumers continue to use medication as necessary but are very receptive to alternatives they perceive to be more natural. We will be exploring the topic of the impact of coronavirus on consumers’ wellness lifestyles and shopping behaviors in our upcoming Functional Foods & Beverages and Supplements 2020 study. The study will include exploration of consumer attitudes and behaviors with regard to supplements (and foods and beverages) as functional products with a particular focus on those that boost immunity and the body’s health defenses.

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