- Functional drinks brand Purearth reports a 254% sales uplift in immunity-supporting range since lockdown, with order numbers up 320% YoY
- Recent Unilever acquisition Liquid I.V. reveals plans to launch a cutting-edge vitamin blend to maintain and strengthen the immune system
- Health brands MOJU, Equi London, Tonic Health and The Good Patch have also launched similar new product lines in response to the virus
- Shivraj Bassi, founder of nutrition company Innermost warns that brands need to be cautious about how they cater to consumer concerns amid this global health crisis
LONDON, United Kingdom — The coronavirus pandemic has propelled personal health to the top of the news agenda and as such, supply and demand for immunity-supporting products have surged since the start of the year.
Functional drinks brand Purearth – which specialises in producing 100% organic immunity boosting wellness shots and fermented gut-support drink Water Kefir – recently reported a 254% sales uplift since lockdown with order numbers up 320% year on year.
Between April and June, Purearth sold four times more Water Kefir than the preceding three months and co-founder Tenna Anette has no doubt that concerns around COVID-19 are driving sales.
Speaking to Welltodo, Anette explained: “The pandemic has led many to review their lifestyle and seek out gut-loving and immunity-boosting ingredients to help strengthen their immune system. In the current climate, the need to nourish our bodies has never been more pertinent.”
In September, Liquid I.V. – having recently been acquired by British-Dutch multinational Unilever – revealed it too would be venturing into the category with “a cutting-edge blend of Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Zinc and Wellmune, all designed to maintain and strengthen the immune system”.
“Science is always at the forefront of all our products,” said Brandin Cohen, founder and CEO of the US-based wellness company. “Our immune support blend has been carefully crafted to strengthen and maintain the immune system – something that’s more important than ever.”
Established British brands Nurishment and Tetley have equally enjoyed a lift in sales triggered by the pandemic, with a spike in demand for vitamin-containing milk drinks and immunity-boosting functional teas, respectively.
“Shoppers are looking for immunity-boosting nutritional items, leaning into vitamin C mainly. As it aids the body’s absorption of other minerals like iron, boosting the immune system, demand has surged,” Bola Akintewe, brand manager for Nurishment told The Grocer.
“Immune trend has exploded since COVID-19”
The nutritional health sector is booming, with similar trends evident in new product ranges launched by MOJU, Equi London, Tonic Health and The Good Patch.
Nutritional therapist Olga Hamilton, VP of nutrigenetic science for personalised nutrition company Nutri-Genetix, has watched “the immune trend” strengthen over recent years but believes the pandemic has been the major trigger to make the market blow up this year.
“The immune trend has been around for a while but it has exploded since COVID-19,” she told Welltodo. “In the first two months of the lockdown all supplement companies sold out any product that mentioned the word ‘immune’.
“They also ran out of vitamin C, zinc, vitamin A and vitamin D for about three months after the start of the pandemic. The demand was overwhelming and many companies have launched new formulations as a result.”
Shivraj Bassi, founder of nutrition company Innermost, has also watched the demand for immunity-boosting products kick into overdrive due to the virus, building on an increasing focus on health and fitness that has been trending up over the past five years.
“COVID-19 has certainly accelerated that movement,” Bassi explained to Welltodo, pointing to a 670% increase in searches for “food” and “immune system” between February and March this year, according to Google Trends.
Yet he also believes that brands, including his own, need to be cautious about how they cater to consumer concerns amid this global health crisis.
“Scientists want to avoid using the word ‘boost’ when it comes to COVID-19,” he said. “This is because when you’re infected with the virus, your immune system is already so ‘boosted’ and overactive that it leads to things such as tissue damage and organ failure.”
Instead, he suggested, people should look for products that restore balance and control to their immune system. “This issue has demonstrated the importance of taking care when choosing the words we use when it comes to high stake issues such as public health.”
He added: “The wrong use of language can lead to false belief and false hope. Creating a false sense of security can lead to public misperception and, perversely, the risk of increased contagion rate.”
Immune support: what does the science say?
In the UK, the government has consistently stressed the importance of maintaining a healthy weight and supplementing with vitamin D to help protect against the worst symptoms of the virus.
In May, research published by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Foundation Trust and the University of East Anglia suggested a deficiency of vitamin D could pose a serious health risk.
It highlighted a “very significant correlation” between a country’s mean-average vitamin D level and its number of coronavirus-related deaths. “The most vulnerable group for COVID-19 is also the one that has the most deficit in vitamin D.”
The NHS also states that between October and early March, the population of the UK does not tend to get enough vitamin D from sunlight alone.
“Since it’s difficult for people to get enough vitamin D from food alone, everyone (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter.”
Nutri-Genetix’s Hamilton acknowledged the significance of vitamin D, especially as winter closes in, while also stressing the importance of a full spectrum of vitamins, minerals and also omega-3 fatty acids to maintain good health.
“The role nutrition plays in supporting the immune system is well-established,” she said. “A wealth of mechanistic and clinical data show that vitamins, including vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and folate play important and complementary roles in supporting the immune system.”
She added that trace elements, including zinc, iron, selenium, magnesium, and copper, and omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid also play crucial roles.
“Inadequate intake of these nutrients is widespread, leading to a decrease in resistance to infections and viruses, while supplementation with the above micronutrients and omega-3 fatty acids is a safe, effective, and low-cost strategy to help support optimal immune function.”
With the virus showing no signs of slowing down, demand in this booming sector looks set to grow, yet as Bassi warns, brands will have a responsibility to not overstate their benefits in our united effort to overcome this global public health crisis.