Immunity supplements are the new multivitamin: Cold-and-flu seasonal sales spike has blossomed to 365 wellness. Get busy

The pandemic has turned seasonal wellness into year-round immune support.
Taffel Sturgeon

The cold and flu season has always been gravy days for selling immune-support supplements. The COVID-19 pandemic that hit in 2020 accelerated supplement sales like never before, with sales in the immunity supplement category spiking more than 70% year-over-year to reach nearly $6 billion in 2020, according to Nutrition Business Journal data. 

But you had a sense of that already. 

While the rush of sales has obviously fallen from the 2020 boom, what has remained is a prevailing consumer sentiment around purchasing supplements to support a healthy immune system. 

In 2020, just about any product with an “immune” label was selling hot. In fact, the immune shelves in many stores were as empty as the paper tissue aisle. Immune supplement manufacturers were scrambling overtime to restock inventory shortages.


In 2021, immune supplement makers naturally raised their forecasts and production ramped up to meet the ongoing global consumer immunity demand. 

Now in 2022, two new things are afoot: Immune supplement sales remain in record territory compared with the same months pre-2019, and sales demand is maintaining an unprecedented 12-month cycle. “Seasonal wellness” is now “year-round immune support.” 

As an example, Natural Path Silver Wings, manufacturer of colloidal silver liquid immune supplements, changed its slogan in Q4 2020 to “Year-round Immune Protection—Covered!” 

“We’re seeing year-round steady sales — even in the summer,” said Andreas Koch, Natural Path Silver Wings’ marketing director. 

The pandemic has solidified within the consumer’s mind the notion that supporting and maintaining immune health is not just a winter-time necessity; rather, immune system health and support must be pursued year-round.

Immunity supplement sales overall are strong and growing due to media, new and younger users entering the category, and consumers looking for preventive types of products due to COVID-19. 

“In Q1 2022, immunity sales were greater than they were a year ago and segment-level trends looked similar to years prior,” said Tisha Winters, brand manager at Olly, “indicating immunity supplements are a 365-days-a-year game.” 

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The New Multi

You might call immunity supplements the new multivitamin. It’s almost as if the consumer perception of supplements has changed. Multivitamins remain a top seller — both women’s and men’s multivitamins are in the top 10 of 2021 supplement sales, according to Nielsen data. But where multivitamins were once considered foundational to general wellness and to help fill in nutrient gaps in less than stellar dietary consumption habits, multivitamins are now also looked at in the context of immune support. 

“The immune system cannot function optimally without having the basic nutritional building blocks for complete health and well-being,” said Adam Sutter, vice president of quality and scientific affairs at ChildLife Essentials. “With this view, multivitamins can be seen as another tool within the toolbox of immune system support.” 

What researchers are discovering — and consumers are beginning to understand — is how so many other health concerns are tied to immune function. Stress and anxiety affect immune response. Healthy sleep habits influence immunity. When seen holistically, the sky’s the limit for immune function. 

“Quality sleep, a robust immune system and stress management are not only essential to achieving optimal health, they are inextricably linked to one another,” said Susan Mitmesser, vice president of science and technology at Pharmavite, which owns Nature Made. “When one is out of balance it can negatively impact the other two.”

Ingredient Leaders

Proper immune-system health requires a multipronged and multifaceted approach, which includes key vitamins such as vitamins C and D, minerals such as zinc and popular botanicals like elderberry or echinacea. 

Some brands are differentiating by straying from these tried-and-true nutrients to offer immune-support formulations that include probiotics — well-known for digestive benefits but also immunity — as well as quercetin, N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) and branded ingredients like EpiCor and Wellmune. 

“Having many offerings of these items, each using different combinations of actives or different delivery systems,” Sutter said, “enables us to ensure we have an offering which will match every child’s unique health-and-wellness needs and preferences.”

Multi-ingredient immunity products are doing well because consumers are looking to not have to take three or four different pills at one time. 

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Diversity is Strength

At the same time, new formats — powder sticks, effervescents, liquids and gummies — are growing faster than the overall immunity category. These non-pill formats overtook traditional capsules and tablets in 2019 as the predominant format of consumer purchase, according to Nutrition Business Journal

“Stick powders are growing two to three times faster than the category,” said Chuck Tacl, senior vice president of sales and business development at Mason Vitamins, “due to pill fatigue, younger users coming into the category, convenience and portability.” 

Different formats meet consumers where they are and provide choices that meet circumstances. 

“There are actually two distinct types of shopper in the store,” said Art Rowe-Cerveny, vice president of marketing at PharmaCare US, which makes the Sambucol elderberry line. “One is the reactive shopper who is purchasing because of a need state — they are not feeling well or someone in the family is not well. These shoppers go for the tried-and-true and most powerful, and our syrup is the best-selling product for them. Second is the proactive shopper, who is planning ahead and incorporating Sambucol into a daily regimen. This shopper prefers the gummies for the ease of use, portability and overall great taste.”

Just to temper the frothy waters — even though immune-support supplement sales are crushing it — every supplement company is putting out line extensions. This makes the job of distributors and product buyers in stores more difficult. After all, there’s only so much shelf space. 

“We believe the immune support category segment is here to stay although it may be over SKU’d at the current time as a reaction to COVID,” said Lou Manchin, managing director of Lifelab Health, which has a BerryWorks Immune Support supplement featuring elderberry.

That means shelf stockers should be discerning about offering a diversity of products — and a balance of product formats. 

In diversity there is strength. That’s because supplements for immune system support in capsules, tasty gummies, lozenges, travel-size liquid spray or on-the-go dropper bottles are more than ever becoming common.


Product Picks

ChildLife Essentials Elderberry Super-Immune SoftChew Gummies, SRP: $19.95
Immune support is a core part of the entire ChildLife product portfolio because nothing ruins a kid’s day — not to mention a mom’s day at work — like being sick. Gummies got their start as the leading supplement delivery format overall by starting with children. Elderberry is a perfect ingredient for gummies because of its inherently rich, yummy flavor. These gummies are made to melt easily for easy compliance. A win for both kids and moms. 

Nature Made Wellblends ImmuneMAX, SRP: $15.99
Big-time channel brand’s new Wellblends line is a sure-fire hit — tangerine-flavored gummies pack a trio of well-known vitamin ingredients listed front-of-pack that target the related areas of sleep, stress and immunity. The gummies are gluten free with no artificial ingredients. A serving size is three gummies, but with those high doses — 750 mg vitamin C, 5,000 IU vitamin D, with 3 mg zinc — even two gummies ought to do the trick.

Mason Vitamins ImmuneDefense, SRP: $13.99 for 14 powder stick packs 
This new concept rings the bells on both convenience and non-pill format. The individual serving size stick packs are easy to take on the go, and are selling two to three times faster than the overall immune category. Each stick pack contains elderberry, selenium, zinc, vitamins C and D, as well as electrolytes. “We are receiving good feedback from our retailer partners and consumers on this form,” said Chuck Tacl, senior vice president of sales and business development at Mason. 

Sambucol Black Elderberry Gummies, SRP: $12.99 
The OG elderberry company uses premium Haschberg black elderberries grown in Europe that in gummy form provide the equivalent of 1.7 g of elderberry (Sambucus nigra) per gummy. Pectin-based gummies mean no gelatin or animal byproducts, and only 1 g of sugarcane per gummy is on the low end for gummies. Overall, these are a great combination of health and taste. 

Protexin Bio-Kult Boosted, SRP:$36.95 for 30 capsules 
Probiotics continue their consumer acceptance for gut health and immunity. The Boosted SKU was launched during the pandemic — a line extension from the original product only with four times the concentration of 14 probiotic strains, as well as vitamin B12. It quickly became the brand’s top-selling product. The bacteria are cryoprotected during the freeze-drying process, which protects them from being compromised by stomach acids and allows for shelf stability. 

Twinings Cold Water Infusions Probiotics+ tea, SRP: $5.99 for 10 servings 
The infusers are a quick way to liven up water. Just drop the packet’s contents in a water bottle, then wait five minutes, shaking occasionally. Each packet contains the clinically validated dose of 500 million CFUs of the BC30 probiotic strain, documented to support digestive health and immunity. Plus the tea is naturally caffeine free, sugar-free and low calorie, with no artificial sweeteners or flavors.

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