Foodservice Operators Explore Immune Health Beverages

woman drinking Wellmune orange juice drink

Functional beverages are coming to foodservice as operators and consumers both seek out ways to improve their short- and long-term health

With the COVID-19 crisis reinforcing the importance of health and wellness, it’s never been timelier for brands to spotlight genuine immune-supporting ingredients and nutrients. According to Kerry ConsumerFirst research from 2019, immune system support was already the number one reason European consumers purchase healthy lifestyle products. As consumers take a more proactive approach to health in the wake of COVID-19, introducing immune health on foodservice menus—especially in the form of immunity-strengthening beverages—could unlock opportunities for European outlets.

Kerry’s foodservice team has identified key areas where foodservice operators can focus future product planning. Use the following insights to explore potential opportunities in functional immune health beverages. For more inspiration, watch our recent webinar, “The Rise of Proactive Health and Immunity in Foodservice”.

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Explore beverages for immune health opportunities

The adoption of immunity into foodservice in Europe has been slow to date. However, given the current state of consumer demands and the emerging market trends in areas further down the path of recovery, such as China, we can expect to see an increase in demand for fortified food and beverage solutions in Europe, too.

Beverages are a natural starting place for foodservice operators hoping to win in this space. Dairy-based drinks, plant-based alternatives and juice drinks are the most active categories featuring immunity claims and are also already key products in foodservice.

To date, we have seen immunity boosting beverages mainly featured on retail shelves. Recent Kerry research found 65% of consumers had purchased or considered purchasing immune health products in the past. Providing these items on foodservice menus, too, will give curious consumers and functional beverage converts another place to find beverages with immune health ingredients.

smoothie with immune ingredientsProviding immune health beverages on foodservice menus will give curious consumers and functional beverage converts another place to find beverages with immune health ingredients.

Leverage familiarity and premium ingredients

At the start of 2020, around half of European consumers were satisfied with their immune health, according to research released by FMCG Gurus in January of 2020. That number may have decreased during COVID-19, creating an even larger pool of consumers who want to boost their health.

Given the current state of uncertainty, its likely consumers will seek immune health ingredients that are familiar and offer reassurance. Trust will also be key moving forward—consumers are looking for brands that are transparent and can offer proven immune health benefits, such as ingredients that are backed by science.

Formulate a winning beverage with immune health ingredients

Our research has found that there are three key parts to a winning fortified beverage: the welcome mat, the halo and the hero.

  • Welcome mat ingredients are ones that are familiar and will entice the consumer, such as strawberry or coffee.
  • A halo ingredient is a trending ingredient which provides a perceived benefit to the immune system, such as lemon or ginger.
  • The hero is an ingredient that is scientifically proven to support immunity such as Wellmune® or probiotics.

Our recent “Art of Taste” spring beverage analysis uncovered a number of limited time offers that contained halo ingredients such as turmeric, matcha and beetroot. Through the addition of hero and welcome mat ingredients, foodservice operators can create a premium product with proven benefits consumers are willing to pay more for.

Focus on breakfast and snack-time beverages

A majority of consumers—68%—are interested in consuming food with immunity boosting benefits at breakfast while 36% say they’d like such a drink as a mid-morning snack and 38% would prefer it mid-afternoon. Aligning functional beverage menus to these times may help foodservice outlets capitalise on the growing demand for immunity products, especially amongst consumers seeking both convenient and healthy choices.

To serve consumers during these dayparts, consider fortifying a beverage already popular at that time of day. A smoothie with immunity boosting claims could form part of a healthy breakfast on-the-go. A mid-morning or afternoon snack could be a functional iced tea, coffee or water.

Bring the immunity message centre stage

Food and beverage brands that effectively communicate how their products support immune system health are predicted to flourish as the pandemic continues to unfold and will have lasting demand post-COVID-19.

Brands can use descriptive language to showcase natural immunity boosting ingredients and highlight the benefits of further fortification. One-word functional descriptors could be used here, with terms such as defend, shield, vitality, detox and protect conveying these messages.

One-word functional descriptors such as defend, shield, vitality, detox and protect can be used on packaging to convey immune health messages.woman drinking nutritional beverage

Weigh operational considerations

Adding new products to foodservice menus can introduce operational challenges to restaurants and cafés. To vet new products, operators should examine the following four considerations:

  1. Flexibility: A new solution that can be used in multiple offerings will minimise the number of SKUs behind the counter.
  2. Storage: Solutions that are concentrated or shelf and ambient stable make the most of limited space.
  3. Familiar format and delivery: Ingredients that use existing techniques minimise the need for new training.
  4. Equipment conscious: Recipes that can be made behind the counter with existing equipment will limit overhead costs.

To learn more about innovating and formulating to meet ever-changing consumer demands, contact Kerry or watch our new webinar “The Rise of Proactive Health and Immunity in Foodservice”. To see how COVID-19 is effecting the food and beverage industry, including changes in consumer preferences and purchasing behaviours, visit Kerry’s COVID-19 resource page.

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