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Building resistance to sales declines

Immunity health products endure a downturn, but manufacturers say the category is still strong.
Nora Caley

Sales of immunity health products are down, but consumers are still buying the items. Even though the pandemic-fueled urgency to stock up on vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, elderberry and probiotics has diminished, shoppers are looking for products that support general health, including immune support.

According to SPINS, for the 52 weeks ending Feb 25, 2024, sales of immune health-focused vitamins, minerals and supplements (VMS) decreased 10.5% in dollar sales, to $1.4 billion. The vitamin C subcategory decreased 6.5% in dollar sales, to $737.8 million. Sales of products that have zinc as a functional ingredient declined 18% in dollar sales. 

Manufacturers are developing new products in the immunity health space and say the category remains relevant to consumers seeking a variety of products related to overall health.

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“Immunity is slowing but there are nuances or subcategories. You could say there are a lot of different supplements that could be labeled immunity.”
— Chuck Tacl, senior advisor, customer and trade relations, Mason Vitamins

Multiple benefits

“Immunity is broad,” said Chuck Tacl, senior advisor, customer and trade relations for Mason Vitamins. “It covers a lot of categories.”

Consumers buy products for various benefits. They might purchase vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc when they feel stress, and these ingredients are also associated with immune health. vitamin B, which is associated with energy, is also an immune health related ingredient.

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“Immunity is slowing but there are nuances or subcategories,” Tacl said. “You could say there are a lot of different supplements that could be labeled immunity.”

One item that is gaining popularity is magnesium, which is appearing on social media in videos and other content about sleep and mood. It’s not just a TikTok phenomenon though, as other online sources note that magnesium is essential for many functions, including immune system support. “Magnesium is on fire,” Tacl said. “Different ingredient types of magnesium have resonated with the consumer.”

New audience, emerging ingredients

Magnesium’s presence on social media hints at a new generation of consumers showing interest in immune health and related products. According to Research and Markets, the global immune health supplements market was valued at $20.80 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach $34.73 billion by 2028. The report noted that the 18-34 age group drives much of the demand, as they have high awareness about immune health, growing income and hectic lifestyles.

Manufacturers have noticed this shift. “It’s exciting for us to see that herbs are having a resurgence in popularity, especially among a younger demographic,” said Laura Chamberlain, chief customer officer at Nature’s Way. “We continue to see more natural products rise up with savvy consumers looking to improve their health span.”

That consumer demand has resulted in growth in the brand’s immune products, including its Sambucus product line. Citing SPINS data, Chamberlain said vitamin C, vitamin D and elderberry are driving much of the immune category growth. “Combined, they account for 85% of total dollar sales in the drug channel over the last 52 weeks,” she said.

Other ingredients sharing the immune health spotlight include Umcka and elderberry. Nature’s Way has also seen increased demand for ginger root, oregano oil, goldenseal and echinacea within the immune support category. “We’re also seeing magnesium everywhere,” Chamberlain said. “Magnesium is the new vitamin D and is essential for heart, muscle and nerve function, and it can also help promote a calm and balanced mood. There are several forms of it, and you can choose to take the form that fulfills your specific need.”

Quercetin, a flavonoid that has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, is also emerging as an ingredient, according to Mike Frink, chief operating officer of APAX USA, parent company of FeelGood Superfoods. Post-pandemic, consumers are taking a more proactive approach with seasonal respiratory illness and general wellness. “We know that everything can’t be treated with antibiotics, so there is a need for over the counter options that have a clinically studied benefit,” Frink said.

The clinically studied benefits can provide a differentiator that helps consumers choose a product and helps retailers streamline their assortments. “Specifically, retailers want fewer SKUs that each have targeted ingredients that benefit the body’s total immune response, from gut health to overall wellness,” Frink said.

The future

Immune health products can drive VMS sales. According to Mintel’s 2023 Vitamins, Minerals & Supplements report, 51% of adults who use VMS products or have interest in them said they were targeting immune system support. That was the second largest target, after physical health, noted by 60% of adults.

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Retailers can tap into this opportunity by serving as educational resources. According to FMI’s Power of Health and Well-Being 2023 report, shoppers are interested in learning more about nutrition and health. When asked about the most important attributes in their primary store, 41% pointed to the availability of nutrition and health information. They also see retailers as allies, with 44% saying grocery store pharmacists and 38% saying drugstores are on their side when it comes to staying healthy.

“People are looking for products that will improve their overall health day to day,” said Tacl, from Mason Vitamins. “That’s a huge trend that’s been here for a while.”

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Product Picks

natures way

Nature’s Way
Nature’s Way recently launched gummies that are formulated with plant-based sweeteners like monk fruit extract and stevia extract. The Sambucus Zero Sugar Elderberry Immune Gummies are made with high potency vitamins C and D3 and an excellent source of zinc per 2-gummy serving to support immune health. They also contain a highly concentrated black elderberry extract.

mason vitamins

Mason Vitamins
Mason Vitamins Magnesium Citrate 250 mg Softgels provide multiple benefits. Magnesium citrate supports muscle and nerve functionality and recovery from exercising, and promotes bone health as it helps regulate calcium levels in the body. 

Magnesium plays an important role in heart health as it supports blood pressure regulation and blood sugar control. Also, magnesium levels correlate with sleep quality.


FeelGood Superfoods
FeelGood Superfoods, an APAX Group brand, is launching Quercetin capsules that will be available in select retailers in the second quarter of 2024. This product offers an over-the-counter option with a variety of benefits in dealing with seasonal allergies, cold and flu. The brand recently launched Berberine Phytosome, which benefits blood sugar, body composition and cholesterol management in a supplement form.

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