Who’s who in immunity 2021

Thanks to COVID-19, immunity has become one of the key catchwords over the last few months. It also has spurred a big jump in retail sales across a number of segments, as consumers look for products to prevent any type of illness during the ongoing pandemic.

That is great news for retailers in the space as booming sales have encouraged them to add more product to their shelves. Yet it also means that as manufacturers announce new products and line extensions, retailers are trying to keep up with all the innovations. Here is a roundup of the major players in the immunity space and what they are doing to stand out in this crowded arena.

Apax Group
Apax Group is the parent company of Prana Principle CBD and FeelGood Superfoods. Launched in 2013, FeelGood Superfoods provides affordable organic supplements. The brand is focusing on meeting consumer demand for products that offer superior immune support and has expanded its portfolio with two innovative products dedicated to helping the body’s natural immune response. The FeelGood Superfoods Immune Support Shots and Immune Support Capsules are physician formulated, and each ingredient was chosen for the natural benefits they provide.

“Before we even knew of the coming pandemic, we had plans in place to begin developing our immune support line,” Mike Frink, vice president of business development, said in a press release. “As COVID took hold, we did a thorough investigation to be sure our supply chain could handle any needs we may have in product production.”

The shots and capsules provide a daily dose of fruits and vegetables, plus essential vitamins that help support the body’s immune system. A 1,000-mg dose of vitamin C plus vitamins A, D, B6 and B12 were specifically chosen for their proven immune system support.

Also new is Elderberry Powder, which is meant to deliver the antioxidants, minerals and vitamins contained in elderberries.

Founded in 2018, Largo, Fla.-based Benesprays makes itSpray — available in BOOSTit for immune support, CHARGEit for energy and DREAMit for sleep. The company said that sprays offer an alternative delivery system to pills, capsules and gummies. By using a sublingual spray, the user doesn’t have to drink water to wash down the vitamins.

“This means no pills, no hassle,” said founder Kimberly Stiele. “It is as simple as seven sprays under the tongue, and your body absorbs 95% of the nutrients in under 30 seconds. You can carry 25 doses of immune support in a purse, diaper bag or even a carry-on suitcase.”

BOOSTit’s key ingredients include vitamin C and echinacea root, which Stiele said encourage white blood cell production. BOOSTit also contains zinc for skin and nail health, as well as L-Glutamine for gut health, which is an important component of immune health. The company recently added elderberry to the formula.

The product is designed to be used as a proactive solution for immune support. “You usually buckle your seatbelt before [you] start driving, or at least you should,” Stiele said. “Similarly, you should also take care of your immune system before you get sick.”

CV Sciences
CV Sciences is a supplier and manufacturer of hemp CBD products. In 2020, the San Diego-based company launched two non-CBD immune-supporting products, CV Defense and CV Acute.

CV Acute is a clinically researched, wide-
spectrum, proprietary plant-based formula that supports the immune system and respiratory health. CV Acute integrates a time tested traditional Chinese medicine herbal formula with modern analytical chemistry and extraction techniques. CV Defense is a clinically supported immune formula that provides effective daily support for barrier immunity, innate immunity and adaptive immunity. Based on palmitoylethanolamide, a clinically researched ingredient to support the immune system, and combined with time-tested nutrients and botanicals, including vitamins A and D, the minerals selenium and zinc, and an organic reishi mushroom extract with concentrated beta-glucans, CV Defense incorporates unique ingredients able to optimize immune response.

The introduction opened markets and sales channels for CV Sciences, including major e-commerce retailers not currently accessible by CBD-based products. Both new products are made with CV Sciences’ rigorous manufacturing and testing standards.

GSK Consumer Healthcare
Among GSK Consumer Healthcare’s portfolio of brands is the Emergen-C family of products, which includes a variety of supplements that can support the immune system. The brand’s flagship flavored fizzy drink mix — introduced in 1978 — offers a high level of vitamin C plus other key antioxidants to support the immune system, as well as B vitamins for energy. There also are gummies and chewables that have been introduced more recently to round out the product line.

Emergen-C also is working on new products. “Based off the trends of immunity, we have recognized that innovation will come in the form of offering immunity products that are specially formulated and targeted to kids, giving moms another tool in helping to keep their family healthy,” said Tom Rinck, director of customer and industry development. “Additionally, we will be innovating by talking to consumers about the benefits of using Emergen-C year-round versus in cold and flu season to keep their immune system healthy.”

Supplement maker i-Health, a division of DSM, includes among its brands Culturelle, which offers probiotics for digestive and immune health — two areas that are closer linked than many consumers are aware.

“Good health starts in the gut,” said Eric Bianco, Culturelle’s brand manager. “Now more than ever, consumers are looking to support their immune and overall health.” New products include Culturelle Kids Immune Defense Probiotic Chewables and Culturelle Adult Immune Defense Probiotic Chewables.

Culturelle Kids Immune Defense Probiotic Chewables feature vitamin C and zinc, alongside a clinically proven probiotic to protect children’s immune health in a once-daily chewable form. Culturelle Kids Immune Defense Chewables have 5 billion colony-forming units, or CFUs, of the probiotic lactobacillus rhamnosus GG. The immunity-focused chewables are made from naturally sourced elderberry fruit juice and contain a good source of both vitamin C and zinc.

Culturelle Adult Immune Defense Probiotic Chewables, a once-daily chewable with 10 billion CFUs of LGG probiotic, contain naturally sourced elderberry fruit juice, vitamin C and zinc.

Culturelle Probiotics is working to educate on the power of probiotics across all outlets, both digitally and in the retail space. “As consumers better understand how probiotics can impact their immune health and not just digestive health, the category will inevitably become larger, benefiting both retailers and manufacturers,” Bianco said.

Based in Easton, Md., Konsyl is best known for its flagship natural psyllium fiber supplement, which has been trademarked since 1934. Yet the company’s extensive product line goes beyond fiber and includes several immunity offerings.

Konsyl’s Vitamin D3 Immunity Gummies are vegan and contain 800 IUs of vitamin D3, which the company said can help support bone health and immunity. The
pectin-based gummies come in a peach and cherry blend flavor, which uses natural peach and cherry flavors.

The Vitamin D3 Immunity Gummies complement Konsyl’s other immunity offerings, which also include the Konsyl Elderberry Immunity Gummies, which, like the Vitamin D3 Immunity Gummies, are vegan friendly and combine 200 mg of black elderberry extract with 70 mg of vitamin C, 400 mg of echinacea extract and 100 mg of propolis extract. Both products are sold in 60-count bottles.

Korea Ginseng
Ginseng is a popular herbal medicine worldwide, especially in Asian countries. Ginseng root is believed to have certain health benefits, including boosting the immune system. According to Korea Ginseng, Korean red ginseng is packed with vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and other essential  nutrients that support health and well-being. The 120-year-old company, with U.S. headquarters in Cerritos, Calif., recently launched the Koreselect brand of supplements in the United States.

“The company is the leading ginseng company in the world, and it is very Asian centric,” said Adam Goodman, vice president of sales. “We decided to come out with products and packaging that are more reflective of the U.S. market.” Consumers in the U.S. know they can use ginseng for energy, so Goodman works with retailers to get the message out that ginseng is also known for immune support and daily wellness.

Koreselect Immune combines Korean red ginseng extract and European black elderberry, or sambucus nigra, which the brand said is known for its antioxidant action and traditional use for immune support. The product, in liquid formula, contains the extract equivalent to approximately 3 g of European black elderberry fruit per serving. It’s GMO- and caffeine-free, as well as all natural.

Mason Vitamins
Over its 50-plus year history, Mason Vitamins has introduced more than 300 vitamins and supplements. One of its newest products is Elderberry Gummies with Echinacea and Propolis. Executives said its products are focused on bringing something fresh, while also being on-trend.

“The differentiator for us is our products are not a me, too,” said Chuck Tacl, senior vice president of sales and business development. “When elderberry started, everyone was rushing into elderberry.” Propolis, produced by bees, is thought to have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. The gummies are made with pectin, so they are suitable for vegetarians and others seeking fruit-based chewable supplements.

Gummies are a popular format right now, and Mason Vitamins recently introduced Prenatal Multivitamins with DHA and Zinc gummies that are made with pectin and are sugar-free. There also is advanced Probiotic XI, which has 30 billion CFUs and11 probiotic strains. With digestive health linked closely to immune health, the company also has introduced its Plant-Based Ultra Digestive Enzymes with Bromelain, Lactase, Papain and Protease. In all, the company will have 21 new products for the year ending in April, with an emphasis on immunity, sleep, calm and brain function.

Nature’s Bounty
For nearly 50 years, Nature’s Bounty — recently rebranded as The Bountiful Company has manufactured vitamins, dietary supplements, minerals, herbals, protein bars and powders, and ethical beauty products. The Ronkonkoma, N.Y.-based company has more than 16,000 items in its product portfolio, with brands that include Nature’s Bounty, Solgar, Sundown, Ester-C and others.

Nature’s Bounty Immune 24 Hour + is a new non-GMO supplement providing 24-hour immune support with Ester-C. The company said this clinically studied, unique ingredient also works to help support upper respiratory health. The softgels include vitamin D and zinc for added immune plus antioxidant support, as well as herbal ingredients like elderberry and echinacea.

The company, citing IRI data, said that shoppers are seeking immune products, with a 67% increase in immune sales since the beginning of March. Individual supplement categories, such as echinacea, elderberry, vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc, are seeing similarly strong sales patterns. “Many consumers are focused on maintaining a healthy immune system now more than ever before,” said Don Kerrigan, president, North America, in a press release announcing the Immune 24 Hour + launch.

Among last year’s immune-related launches was Nature’s Bounty Zinc Gummies, gluten-
free mixed berry-flavored gummies that contain no artificial flavor or sweetener.

Nordic Naturals
When Nordic Naturals launched in 1995, its focus was on fish oil products with omega-3 nutrients. Over the years, the Watsonville, Calif.-based company expanded its portfolio to include probiotics, vitamins, essential nutrients and more. “We always use best-in-class ingredients that are backed by science-based research,” said Brian Terry, national sales manager for FDM and specialty. He also said that almost all products are non-GMO, as well as dairy- and gluten free. The brand never uses artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.

Nordic Naturals is expanding its manufacturing and product development business. The company owns its gummy manufacturing facility, which makes Zero Sugar Gummy Vitamins such as Vitamin D, Melatonin, Curcumin and Children’s DHA Gummies. The brand recently launched Nordic Immune, a 4-in-1 product that includes a high potency offering of 1,000 mg of vitamin C, 2,000 IU of vitamin D, 429 mg of elderberry and 15 mg of zinc. “We are constantly innovating and have many new offerings that will be launching in the upcoming months and years, with a robust schedule that I am extremely excited about,” Terry said.

Delray Beach, Fla.-based Oceanblue’s flagship product is Omega-3 2100, which has 2,100 mg of fatty acids. The omega-3 oils are refined in Norway and then further concentrated in Oceanblue’s state-of-the-art facility in Germany. The process removes unhealthy fats, impurities and by-products to create high purity, concentrated omega-3 products.

The company also makes Omega-3 2100 with Vitamin D, which supports immune function and wellness, in softgels in a vanilla flavor. In 2020, Oceanblue launched Omega-3 2100 with CoQ10, a compound that helps generate energy in cells, in an orange flavor. In all three products, the potency, 2,100 mg of omega-3’s, is higher than competitors’ fish oil products.

Building on the success of its immunity gummies, Olly launched immunity powders at Target last August. The powders will be available to other retailers this spring. There are three SKUs in the lineup, which all include elderberry, echinacea, vitamin D, zinc and 14 oranges worth of vitamin C. “This combination of ingredients really make Olly immunity products stand out as an all-in-one immunity supplement, so consumers don’t have to take multiple products,” said Anna Selser, brand manager at the San Francisco-based company.

Immunity + Elderberry powders are effervescent and provide immune support during the day.  They come in two flavors — berry yuzu lemonade and blood orange. Immunity Sleep + Elderberry powder includes a blend of elderberry, vitamin C and melatonin to support immunity, while also encouraging sound, restorative sleep in a soothing lemon flavor. The round-the-clock support also is a differentiator, as Olly Active Immunity gummies and Olly Immunity + Elderberry powders are designed for any time of day, while Olly Immunity Sleep gummies and Olly Immunity Sleep+ Elderberry powders are for nighttime use.

In spring 2020, Olly launched its Adult Multi + Probiotic, the brand’s first adult multivitamin with a blend of essential vitamins, minerals and 1 billion CFUs of probiotics to support overall wellness, digestion and immunity.

The brand can help retailers attract new shoppers. “Olly over-indexes with younger, more affluent shoppers that enjoy trying new things,” Selser said. “Sixty-three percent of new Olly shoppers are new to the supplements category.”

Pharmacare US
Immune support entails more than taking vitamins and other nutritional products. Hydration also is a factor, and it’s one that people often overlook. “You have to approach immunity holistically,” said Art Rowe-Cerveny, vice president of marketing at San Diego-based Pharmacare US. “Immunity involves sleep, proper hydration, and if you don’t have those you are taking away the body’s ability to defend itself.”

Pharmacare, which makes Sambucol Black Elderberry, recently added a powder packet format to the lineup. Each packet of fast-dissolving powder delivers the equivalent of 5.4 g of premium elderberry and also contains 500 mg of vitamin C. Sambucol Black Elderberry Daily Immune Drink Powder packets provide daily immune support and promote hydration. The powder is a convenient and portable format for people with active lifestyles, so Pharmacare will provide in-store merchandising during the second quarter of this year.

“In the spring, people will get outside more,” Rowe-Cerveny said. “We will be doing messaging in store, calling out our hydration message in the aisle.”

Sambucol Black Elderberry Daily Immune Drink Powder packets are available in 10-count, 16-count and 30-count packages. The brand also makes syrups, gummies and other formats, including a new drop for children as young as 6 months old.

Piping Rock
Piping Rock’s wholesale division, Nature’s Truth, recently introduced two products, Immune Support Gummies and Black Elderberry Immune Complex Chewables. Immune Support Gummies feature a blend of vitamin C, zinc and manuka honey and have a natural honey lemon flavor, while being pectin based and thus vegetarian friendly. Black Elderberry Immune Complex Chewables, the first chewable supplement in the brand’s successful elderberry line, has a natural mixed berry flavor and provides Sambucus black elderberry, vitamin C and zinc. These vegetarian chewables are non-GMO and free of gluten and dairy.

The Bohemia, N.Y.-based company is committed to supporting its retail partners to help consumers take charge of their health. “A new consumer mindset will continue to drive demand for products that support the immune system, as well as sleep and stress items that can support overall health and wellness,” said Kimberly Vigliante, senior vice president of wholesale sales and marketing. Piping Rock is increasing its capacity to meet consumer demand and bring new products to market quickly.

“We continue to keep a close eye on the latest market trends in order to deliver the products and ingredients consumers want most, and help retailers drive sales,” Vigliante said. “We are also investing in our own state-of-the-art facilities in order to expand our immune offerings in 2021 and beyond.”

With 70% of the body’s immune system residing in the gut, digestive and immune health are linked. The probiotics company Probulin said its newest product, Total Care Immune, supercharges that connection by adding 100 mg of Eldermune, which is equivalent to 4,225 mg of whole elderberry, to a specially formulated blend of 11 probiotic strains. It’s all encapsulated with prebiotics and postbiotics in Probulin’s MAKTrek 3D delivery system, a “seaweed submarine” that protects against stomach acid so the probiotics survive the journey.

Total Care Immune had been in the works for months, and much effort went into making sure the key ingredients did not react improperly to each other. “We did some stability studies to verify the elderberry combined with probiotics was stable,” said Jason Mitchell, co-founder and CEO of Probulin.

The attention to detail and to safety are standard for Topeka, Kan.-based Probulin. The company manufactures products in an NSF-certified facility that follows current good manufacturing practices. “We are vigilantly focused on quality and integrity, and making sure we put out products that perform as intended,” said Mitchell, who is a doctor of naturopathic medicine, or ND. The brand’s other digestive probiotics include Daily Care Probiotic, Total Care Women’s UT Probiotic, Daily Digestive Enzymes and others.