The immune system is the body’s first line of defense against a whole range of diseases and conditions.
Active immunity is the result of exposure to a disease so that if contact with that organism occurs in the future, the immune system will produce antibodies required to fight it, per CDC. This immunity can be acquired naturally—that is, by direct exposure to the disease—or sometimes through a vaccine. Immunity has always been of interest to consumers, but it has been particularly significant over the past two years in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Multiple factors can compromise the immune system on a daily basis and potentially lead to health issues and disease. These include poor diet, lack of exercise, stress and environmental pollutants, among others. People are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of their immune systems and are focused on identifying practices which can boost personal immunity. NMI’s Supplements, OTC, RX Database (SORD) highlights consumers’ attitudes and behaviors toward a wide array of issues related to trends in health conditions and provides an understanding of the motivations to purchase/use surrounding the intersection of supplements, OTC products and pharmaceuticals. These data, gleaned from a nationally representative sample of over 2,000 U.S. adults trended since 2005, offer insights into shoppers’ concerns and actions regarding immunity.
Consumers have strong opinions about immunity. In 2021, over three-fourths of the general population (80%) reported they are very/somewhat concerned about their need to boost immunity, an increase from 55% from 2009. It’s highly likely Covid amplified these anxieties as people searched for means to strengthen their immune systems in an effort to protect against the virus. In fact, nearly half of consumers expressed interest in learning more about immune-boosting supplements in light of Covid.
But beyond a general concern, a tangible increase has occurred in those who are actively managing or treating immunity issues. Currently, 42% of the general population is managing immunity conditions, a figure five times that of 2009 as consumers realize the importance of a strong immune system—both now and in the future—and concerns for current and possible new viruses are top of mind.
Best ways to address immunity issues
Healthy lifestyle behaviors present a natural way to boost and strengthen the immune system, including a nutritious diet, exercise, not smoking, limiting alcohol, reducing stress, getting adequate sleep and maintaining a healthy weight, among others. Many prefer natural methods, with two-thirds of those surveyed indicating they seek out food and beverage that improves the body’s natural defenses and immune system. But other consumers fall short in these behaviors and turn to supplements as a means of boosting immunity.
As such, it’s not surprising that immunity supplements are a big business. Sales of immune health supplements are projected to grow from $16 billion in 2019 to $29 billion by 2027, spurred in large part by the pandemic, according to research from Fortune Business Insights. NMI’s consumer insights bear out this trend. A majority (64%) of consumers have used immune supplements in the past year, and while 26% of the adult general population—66.3 million people—indicated their usage of these supplements has increased over the past year, 43% have increased use over the past five years.
Overall, consumer demand for supplements is increasing as people look to support their immune health, boost overall wellness and reduce stress in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. Over three-fourths said they would be likely to use a supplement that was proven to manage or aid immunity issues. But proven effectiveness is key. Only 21% of supplement users feel that currently available immunity supplements are very effective. Clearly, work needs to be done in testing, proving and communicating efficacy while keeping within the bounds of labeling guidelines.
This article continues in “The protective halo of immune health” digital magazine.” Click the link to access it, along with other content concerning the market.
Diane Ray is vice president, strategic innovation, at the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI). NMI is a strategic consulting, market research, and business development firm specializing in the health, wellness and sustainability marketplace.