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2021 really did change everything

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Consumers have now rolled immune health into its own category that hangs above everything else, second only behind general health. Also, cold, flu and immune support is now the second-largest condition by market share - and the pandemic definitely changed that.

When we at Nutrition Business Journal ask consumers what health challenges they are dealing with, experiential issues rise to the top: Stress, sleep, anxiety, energy, weight and gut are the top six concerns. Compared to just a year or two ago, immune health—contrary to the height of the pandemic—is not atop that list.

But that’s because consumers have now rolled immune health into its own category that hangs above everything else, second only behind general health. We are finding cold, flu and immune support is now the second-largest condition by market share, and the pandemic definitely changed that. To gain that much market share as a health priority is a pretty big deal.

It’s notable that about 15% of the total supplement market is driven by cold, flu and immunity. The top health concern by market share is general health, including men’s, women’s and children’s, at 22.3%, according to NBJ market sizing. No. 2 is cold/flu/immunity at 14.6%. After that, it’s gastrointestinal (GI) health at 8.9% and heart health at 8.4% to round out the top four. And then there’s a bundle of joint health/inflammation at 5.6%, bone health at 5.4%, diabetes at 5.4% and cancer prevention at 4.8%.

General health vs. immune health

Covid really drove consumer behavior from general health to immune health, but there’s a subtle shift between the two categories as far as messaging goes. Immunity is now declining a little bit as a category year over year. Part of that is a shift to a more general health approach.

It’s important to have that context of where the general health market is today. There’s so much blurriness among consumers between taking an immunity health supplement and taking a product that supports general health.

Children’s health is important to point out on its own because there was a growth spike in 2021 related to pandemic concerns and immunity, so there’s a blurred line in particular in the category between a true immune health supplement and general health support. The bulk of that market is really multivitamins, but growth is occurring in some of those specialty categories, like probiotics and fish oil, as well as melatonin to help children sleep. It’s a smaller market at $658 million, but children’s health saw an impressive 18.5% growth in 2021.

All of this comes into play in the immune health market.

Looking at cold, flu and immunity, sales did decline into 2021-22 following the Covid boom. What’s more important, though, is that the associated line of growth looks like a pretty terrible year coming out of Covid—but it was coming off of that 72% spike in 2020.

That market has been permanently boosted—it was a $2.5 billion market before Covid, but now the immune health market is valued at more than $5.5 billion. Plus we’re projecting an additional $602 million added from 2021-25, so we have half a billion still to come during our forecast period, from 2021-25, with a 6.2% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) during that time.

For a look at the top six immune-support ingredients powering the immunity supplements sector, click HERE to download the free Natural Products Inside or digital magazine on immunity.

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