Consumer interest in immunity has dropped from early pandemic days, but health claims remain a top priority for food and beverage shoppers, Innova Market Insights data shows

According to Google trends data, searches for “immune” within the food and drink category shot up from about 10-15 in the weeks before the pandemic was declared to 100 within weeks after the pronouncement before dropping back down to around 25 as the pandemic continued.

In response, product launches touting immune health rose 18% in the 12 months after the pandemic was declared compared to the 12 months before, according to data  from Innova Database.

While the pandemic can be credited for much of this increase, consumer interest in immune health was already on the rise before the coronavirus outbreak, with Innova Market Insights tracking a 6% compound annual growth rate between 2016 and 2018.

As the perceived threat of the coronavirus ebbs for many Americans, the big question now is: Does immunity have sticking power, which Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights, says she is asked at least once a week.

Speaking at IFT’s virtual conference yesterday, Williams indicated several factors support the staying power of consumer interest in immune-boosting foods and beverages, even if not at as high a rate as during the first part of the pandemic.

First, she said, a growing body of research and evolving regulations support immune health claims. For example, she pointed to the regulatory approval in Brazil for the commercialization of two probiotic strains (LC40 and K8), both of which are claimed to boost the immune system. Likewise, in March, NutriLeads conducted a study that found immune supporting benefits of upcycled carrot-derived polysaccharides.

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