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Food Additives/Nutraceuticals


www.chemicalsknowledgehub.com Q&A: Immune Health – challenges and innovation


in the immune health additives market The pandemic has brought the topic of immune defence into sharp focus. Many consumers are increasingly turning to functional foods and dietary supplements that help support the body’s own defences. akp interviewed eight manufacturers to discover what challenges and innovation potential they foresee in the ‘Immune Health’ segment, here is what the interviewees from BENEO, Kaneka, Nutriswiss and Taiyo had to say.


How do you envisage the development of the immune health market? What role has the coronavirus crisis played in that?


For many consumers, immune health has thus far been a seasonal issue usually relating to classic flu season. Only for vulnerable groups or those aged 65+ has the body’s own defence mechanism been a year-round topic. But COVID-19 has changed all that, as a stable immune system has become an ongoing discussion across all age groups and sectors of society. According to a worldwide consumer survey by market analyst FMCG Gurus 2020, two-thirds of respondents said they are more conscious of their immune system because of the pandemic. 50% said they are supporting their defences through healthy eating, and one in ten is taking additional dietary supplements. What is also new is that when it comes to healthy eating, many consumers are now taking a holistic approach. Whether through dietary supplements or functional food, they choose what suits their daily routine best and – in the case of food – combines health benefits with indulgence.


The pandemic has taught everyone new things, such as wearing masks to protect against the virus. Yet nutrients are important for prevention too. Before COVID-19, the immune health market was mainly focused on flu season and children. But now people have learned that immunity is an important topic for all ages, all-year round. Consumers are reflecting on their wellbeing, taking more exercise and trying to live healthier lives. They are also searching for solutions to help improve their overall health. As a result, there is increasing interest in nutritional strategies that support several areas simultaneously, such as more energy, improved endurance, a healthy heart, strong immune system and better mental wellbeing, particularly during these challenging times. The micronutrient ubiquinol targets all of these areas.


The pandemic and the first reports of a possible vitamin D deficiency in the deceased victims made the general public more aware of the issue. At the same time, many people who had not previously paid much attention to strengthening their immune system became increasingly conscious about the fragility of their own health. Earlier recommendations had tended to be of a general nature, such as a eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise and sufficient sleep, etc. The market has responded to the pandemic but is still fragmented. The immune health segment includes numerous supplements, such as vitamins, minerals, plant extracts, probiotics, amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids, and dosage forms including capsules, tablets, sticks and liquids or solutions. Depending on the source information, the global market is estimated to be worth about $20 billion, with growth in the high-single digit range.


Most people are aware of the importance of a well-developed and fully functional immune system to defend against and fight diseases. As such, many more consumers are now focusing on a health-oriented lifestyle that will strengthen their immune system for both the present and the future. At Taiyo, we are already feeling the increasing demand, especially for our 100% natural dietary fibre, Sunfiber. As a water- soluble fibre, it supports health-promoting bacteria at the intestinal mucosa — the inner lining of the intestinal tract — and improves their ability to defend against pathogenic invaders. These “good” bacteria also promote the production of immunoglobulins and antibodies. It is known that many COVID-19 patients suffer from gastrointestinal problems. More than 50% experience digestive discomfort and about 47% suffer from digestive and pulmonary disorders (Pan et al. 2020). Dietary fibre, which increases the diversity of intestinal bacteria, can strengthen the human immune system.


What challenges does the market face?


The pandemic has accelerated interest in healthy nutrition in general, with particular interest in products relating to gut health and immune defence. This trend looks set to continue – also post-pandemic. Our prebiotic dietary fibres are particularly in demand, as they fulfil several important consumer needs in terms of healthy nutrition. In order to meet the challenge of keeping up with this demand, and to reliably meet the increased need for prebiotic dietary fibres in the future, BENEO has invested more than €50 million in its plant in Pemuco, Chile.


46


March/April 2021 • Issue 2


(Photo © BENEO)


(Photo © Taiyo International)


(Photo © Nutriswiss AG)


(Photo © Kaneka Corporation)


(Photo © BENEO)


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