More than four in ten consumers have increased their purchases of functional foods, beverages and supplements since the start of the pandemic, a major global survey from Kerry, the makers of immune health ingredient Wellmune, has found.

The company surveyed 13,000 people across 16 countries to provide manufacturers with insights into the impact of COVID-19 on purchasing behaviors, with 44 percent of respondents globally saying they had bought more dietary supplements since the outbreak of the pandemic and 42% saying they had increased their purchases of functional or fortified foods and beverages.

As many as 39% of consumers had used an immune health product over the past six months and a further 30% would consider doing so in future, suggesting a total potential immune health market of 69%.

“Interest in health and wellness has never been higher and we wanted to give the industry new insights into changing purchasing habits,” says John Quilter, Kerry vice president of Global Portfolio – ProActive Health. “One of our key findings was the scale of the impact of the pandemic on demand – not just for immune health products, but for functional foods, beverages, and supplements overall. Consumers were adopting increasingly proactive, holistic attitudes to health, wellness and nutrition long before 2020 but the pandemic has massively accelerated this trend.”

Immune health is a particularly powerful purchase driver in certain food and beverage categories. One in three (33%) consumers said they would be interested in purchasing fruit and vegetable juices if they contained ingredients that promoted immune support. Other categories seen as a good fit for immune health benefits include spoonable yogurt (31%), dairy-based drinks (28%) and hot beverages (24%).

“Manufacturers should see the surge in demand for immune health products not as an opportunity, but as a reason for increased responsibility,” says Quilter. “Everyone in the immune health sector needs to earn the trust of consumers by communicating transparently about product benefits and using proven ingredients supported by high-quality research. The reason Wellmune connects so well with consumers is that its benefits are substantiated by science.”