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COVID-19 drives demand for functional beverages

The current COVID-19 pandemic will drive demand for functional products that help boost immunity.

The current COVID-19 pandemic is seen as a once-in-a-lifetime event and something that will have a profound impact on concerns about health, as well as eating and drinking habits. This is something that will drive demand for functional products that help boost immunity as consumers look to minimize the risk of illness. When it comes to such products, it is crucial that they are deemed affordable and credible when it comes to health claims

An FMCG Gurus Immunity survey of 1,000 consumers conducted in the U.S. in Q3 2019 found only 59% of respondents said they were satisfied with their immunity. Of those consumers who are not satisfied with their immune systems, 30% said it had worsened in the last two years. When asked what constitutes a poor immune system, 53% said being easily susceptible to long-term health problems, while 33% define it as difficulty recovering from illness.

Given the current pandemic crisis facing the U.S. and rest of the world, it is likely that concerns about the immune system have intensified in recent months. Indeed, consumers are likely to take a more proactive approach to reducing the risk of being vulnerable to illness than ever before; eating and drinking habits will be a major influence in reducing this risk. This is especially true given 32% of respondents said they have suffered a health problem in the last two years that could have impacted their immunity.

Last year, 46% of U.S. consumers said they had made changes to their lifestyles in the previous 12 months to boost their immune system. This will have been influenced by the fact 56% said there is a link between good immune levels and good overall health. When asked what changes they had made to improve their immunity, 56% said they had looked to improve their eating and drinking habits. These consumers are taking a two-pronged approach when it comes to the issue of diet and immunity. First, they are looking to reduce their intake of dietary “evils” such as sugar because of concerns about the link between obesity and poor immunity. Second, they are actively seeking out products with ingredients that offer health-boosting benefits beyond basic nutrition and hydration.

In a Q3 2019 Active Nutrition survey conducted in the U.S., 52% of respondents said they regularly research ingredients that help boost their health. Like concerns about immunity, the current COVID-19 crisis is something that is likely to have inflated these figures in recent weeks. This is something that will drive demand for functional products that help boost immunity as consumers look to minimize the risk of illness. Additionally, in Q4 2019, FMCG Gurus surveyed 2,000 consumers in the U.S. about their soft drink (meaning carbonates, chilled juice, cordials and water, and excluding coffee and tea) habits. The research found 36% of respondents said they drink functional beverages at least once a week (defined as being positioned around active ingredients that boost physical or cognitive health). Moreover, of these consumers, 35% said they had increased the amount of soft drinks they consume in the previous six months. Again, demand for such products will have intensified recently.

The current COVID-19 crisis will intensify concern about immunity and demand for products that boost health in 2020. This is something that creates significant opportunity for the functional beverage industry. However, it is crucial that such beverages are deemed affordable and not misleading when it comes to health claims in order to fully appeal to consumers.

Mike Hughes is head of research and insight, FMCG Gurus.

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