Fueled by increased consumer demand for year-round defense against illness, and encouraged by a surge of new science confirming the nutrition-immunity connection, ingredient suppliers and supplement manufacturers are rolling out a host of new offerings — from mushroom extracts and probiotic blends to proprietary yeast-derived formulations. Meanwhile, old cold and flu standbys like Emergen-C and Airborne continue to thrive, positioning themselves for year-round sales with new marketing campaigns.
“People are looking more toward deep immune health,” Kerry Watson, product library manager for Schaumberg, Illinois-based market-research firm SPINS, told Nutrition Business Journal. “They want to build their immune systems up over time, rather than just looking for a quick fix when they are about to get sick.”
But while the broadening immune-support category looks promising for many reasons, those entering it with new or obscure ingredients face an uphill battle educating consumers, says Elizabeth Sloan, PhD, president of San-Diego-based nutrition consulting firm Sloan Trends. And in the wake of the H1N1 scare and the ensuing regulatory crackdown on companies that overstated their ability to address it, she sees the category as a “regulatory minefield.”
“It is amorphous, crowded and plagued with regulatory issues, and consumers don't quite know what immunity is,” says Sloan. “But if companies can figure out how to navigate it, there is huge opportunity there.”
NBJ subscribers can read this full article, which includes a breakdown of U.S. immune-support supplement sales by ingredient and product. This article was published in NBJ’s 2010 Integrative Medicine & Condition-Specific Supplements issue. The issue also looked at the bright (yet complicated) future for probiotics, whether doctors should sell supplements to their patients and the potential impact of vocational nutrition schools such as the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.