The recent boom in natural health is driving consumer interest in better-for-you plants.

As consumers continue to recognize the important place of digestive health in immunity and cognitive and emotional health, their appetite for food formulations that offer gastrointestinal benefits grows. As better-for-you food and beverage formulators strive to stay up to date on new ingredients in the pipeline, it’s worth a brief look at a few key ingredients expected to trend in the coming year and beyond.

The polyphenolic compound curcumin, found primarily in turmeric, has long been recognized for myriad health benefits, ranging from antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to antidiabetic effects and hepatoprotective mechanisms. But while curcumin is nothing new to food formulations, emerging research has investigated its bioavailability and effects on gut microbes, with surprising results. 


With immunity forefront in the minds of today's consumers, its connection to digestive health spells unprecedented options for nutrition support.
PHOTO COURTESY OF: Functional Products Trading SA/Benexia

According to recent research, one in four people globally has become more concerned about their immune health since before the pandemic. The most significant increase was among Millennials (aged 26 to 35 years) and younger Gen X (aged 36 to 45 years). Higher levels of concern among these relatively young age groups indicate the potential for longer-term consumer interest.

Immune health claims were already trending upward before COVID-19, particularly in Europe and North America. It was one of the fastest-growing health claims in food and beverage globally in terms of the number of new product launches between 2016 and 2020.


The recent boom in natural health is driving consumer interest in better-for-you plants.
PHOTO COURTESY OF: Australian Carob Co.

The natural ingredient “greatest hits” for immunity are not easy to miss, as they have become some of the top-selling botanicals. A recent review article detailed the botanicals with documented immunomodulatory, immunostimulatory, and anti-inflammatory activity that stand out for their use in immunity.

Included in this review were adaptogens; Boswellia (Boswellia frereana), also known as frankincense; turmeric (Curcuma longa), the most common source of curcumin; Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea); licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra); umckaloabo, also known as the South African geranium (Pelargonium sidoides); a veritable library of medicinal mushrooms; and elderberry (Sambucus nigra). Elderberry, with evidence of virus-fighting ability, has recently landed at the top of the immunity list.