The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak has led to a global surge in demand for immunity-boosting products, and supplements in particular have seen a major leap in sales in recent months. But for mainstream beverage firms to push out products claiming to boost immunity, some additional areas need to be taken into consideration.
“[It] is important that manufacturers do not simply jump on the bandwagon of mega trends and launch products in the market. Instead, it is important to invest in deep consumer insights and develop a product which addresses the pain points of their target consumers,” DuPont ASEAN Beverage Industry Leader Victor Leow told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“[For example, effective immunity innovation needs to] not only to provide improved nutritional profiles, better taste, and texture but to also incorporate native ingredients or concoctions that consumers are familiar with – [for example] Jamu, a traditional herbal concoction trusted in Indonesia for health benefits, which may contain ginger and turmeric.
“Another example is fermented drinks [such as] fermented juices or fermented teas which are well-known for their immune health promoting properties with live bacteria beneficial to digestive health, [which] has experienced a revival among consumers in recent years.”
The format of delivering such beverages also needs to be carefully considered, and here making sure that the consumer finds the drink convenient to consume is a priority.
“From a scientific point of view, [when incorporating] immunity-boosting ingredients into a beverage product it is important to evaluate how different ingredients when applied to different formats and applications will impact final product in taste and texture,” he said.
“What is also important is how the product format meets consumers’ needs and fits into key occasions.
“For example, we have found out through the recent DuPont beverage consumer survey that the nutritional beverages in ready-to-drink format is preferred by most current users due to the convenient nature and perceived taste superiority.”
Right drink for right age
Another key aspect here is demographic-targeting, or figuring out how to target different age groups with the right immunity-boosting beverage options.
“Our nutritional needs, preferences, lifestyle, and consumption occasions differs at different stages of our lives, therefore, companies should consider products targeted at different consumer groups,” said Leow.
“We believe that deep insights and market knowledge is key when considering suitable products formats that are appealing to each target age group. For example, research tells us that dairy remains a staple in the diets of many kids in Asia; 98% of kids in Thailand & 69% of kids in Malaysia consume dairy drinks on a daily basis.”
But while this seems to imply that companies should concentrate on innovating dairy-based immunity-boosting beverages to target children in the region, he also pointed out that things are not so straightforward due to the number of products already on the market and more creative concepts are likely to be needed to capture new consumers.
“The market [for dairy beverages] is saturated and there may be a lack of innovative concepts to satisfy the need for an exciting, delicious, and healthy functional dairy beverage,” he added.
“As a result, it might suggest that it may be time for brands to reinvent their proposition in order to win in the marketplace.
“Functional beverages added with ECCG (green tea extracts) for antioxidants benefits can be considered as well.”
Nutrition and immunity
Leow also spoke at the recent Power through on health and immunity webinar, where he highlighted what DuPont dubs as Positive Nutrition to maintain health, wellness, and ultimately boost immunity.
“In Positive Nutrition, we focus on healthy and purposeful eating, [developing] concepts and recipes centered around high protein, high fiber and including probiotics into our daily diets,” he told us.
“In addition, given the statistics on sarcopenia in adult men and women in ASEAN, we believe that the right nutrition can help maintain muscle health [thus] encourage consumers to consume sufficient macronutrients such as proteins, fiber, and probiotics in their diets to maintain good immune health and overall well-being.”
As for how good nutrition ultimately helps to boost the immune system, he emphasized that the answer is ‘complex’, but that there is strong research to show how nutrients and functional food components can play a ‘major role’ in immune function.
“Macronutrients such as protein can help maintain immune cell and dietary fibre improves intestinal immune response. When paired with probiotics for gut health, these three ingredients take immunity up a notch,” he said.
“Simply, good nutrition boosts the production of immunity and creates an appropriate environment in which the immune system is able to respond appropriately to foreign invaders or pathogens.”