According to “The Future of Nutrition, Health and Wellness,” a 2021 report from global market research firm Mintel, the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked rising interest in holistic health among consumers worldwide. That reality bodes well for the growth of immunity-supporting foods and beverages.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of having a healthy immune system,” says Daisy Li, associate director, Mintel Food and Drink, APAC. “Our research shows that demand for healthy food and drinks has increased as COVID-19 has made healthy eating a higher priority to reducing the risk of chronic diseases. The desire to stay healthy will keep consumers engaged with immune-support products, even after the pandemic has subsided.”

In the coming years, “nutrition will be practiced as self-care,” Mintel’s report adds. The company’s research also indicates that 78% of U.S. consumers say healthful eating is important for their emotional wellbeing.

Planet health, affordability also top of mind

The report notes that in addition to their own health, consumers globally are concerned with the health of the Earth. The next wave of healthy diets, therefore, will be those that also support the health of the planet and everyone on it. Affordable nutrition also will gain traction in the next five years.

“The pandemic and the subsequent economic downturn, coupled with recent social justice movements, will make nutrition equity an important cause moving forward,” Li says. “Brands can address nutritional inequalities by facilitating localized solutions, improving the affordability and accessibility of nutritious food, and shifting to sustainable food systems.

”Diets designed to support individual, as well as planetary, health, will be prioritized by consumers,” she adds. “Food and drink companies need to complement environmental efforts with ethical programs dedicated to human welfare, a critical issue brought forth by the pandemic.”

Up to the task

Immunity boosting. All-around better for you. Affordable. Sustainably produced. That is a tall order for any food or beverage manufacturer to fill. But as dairy processors, you are well-positioned to go for it. Dairy products are already associated with health and wellness — milk alone boasts 13 essential nutrients. And numerous dairy products are great vehicles for the addition of probiotics and other immunity-boosting ingredients.

Dairy generally can be viewed as affordable, too. In fact, milk and other dairy products are inexpensive sources of three of the four nutrients of public health concern — calcium, vitamin D and potassium — according to “Comparing the Cost Of Essential Nutrients from Different Food Sources in the American Diet Using NHANES 2011-2014,” a 2019 report (  

Many of you are making significant progress on the sustainability side as well. Others of you, meanwhile, have set admirable goals for improvement in the near future.

Tell them your story 

Going forward, messaging that connects with the post-pandemic consumer mindset will also be key to gaining your fair share of the holistic-health food and beverage market. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: You need to tell your story — in a way consumers can trust and understand. Dairy processors that figure out this piece of the puzzle can look forward to a bright future.