Guide: The Future of Immune Health is in Research Supported Ingredients

At the center of the surge in demand for immunity products is a growing pursuit of healthy lifestyles among people of all ages. In an ever-broadening market, scientific substantiation is what sets products apart, with consumers increasingly basing their selections on verifiable data. Research supported immune health ingredients backed by clinical studies are an effective way for manufacturers to communicate product efficacy and benefits, build credibility and transparency, and simplify consumer choice.

In this guide we focus on:

  • Key trends in immune health
  • Evaluating immune health ingredients: why science is key
  • Formulation opportunities for populations with unique immune health needs, including health-conscious individuals, athletes, and kids


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Welcome to the future: the changing immune health landscape.

Consumers are increasingly turning to nutrition to support their wellness.

  • Between 2015 and 2020, global food and drink launches with immune health claims saw a CAGR of 8.2%.
  • For vitamins and dietary supplements with immune health claims, the figure was 13.6% CAGR.
  • As well, launches of food and drink products with immune health benefits increased by 12.9% in the year up to April 30, 2020 – up from 5.4% in the previous 12 months.

Research: key to mainstreaming the trend.

Consumers seeking out immune health products have more options than ever before. As part of the trend toward mainstreaming the desire to maintain and protect health, consumers increasingly seek immune health benefits in everyday foods and beverages. And many are turning to research supported immune health ingredients to simplify selection.

Nearly four in ten (39%) consumers say seeing research or scientific data claims would encourage them to buy a healthy lifestyle product.

With customers increasingly searching for benefits in their favorite foods and beverages, manufacturers can differentiate in this space. Again, research is the key ingredient.

Get clarity in understanding the science behind research-supported immune health ingredients.

We believe the most effective strategy is to use ingredients that are clinically demonstrated and meet consumer demand for scientific substantiation.

~John Quilter, Vice President and General Manager, Kerry, manufacturers of Wellmune

What’s new in immune health ingredients?

As the market continues to grow, immune health products are taking on many forms. From vitamins to herbs to oats to mushrooms, to yeast beta glucans for immunity, here’s a look at some emerging ingredients.

Vitamins and minerals.

Vitamin C has long been regarded as the backbone of immunity—and it does have its place in the wellness lexicon. But establishing how much is needed for efficacy remains an unanswered question. Data on Zinc, another popular immune health ingredient, is somewhat inconclusive as well.


Research on the benefits of Echinacea has shown that the flowering herb may have properties that over-stimulate the immune system rather than working as an immunomodulator.

Oats and mushrooms.

These ingredients, types of beta glucans, can provide some health benefits. Oats can support heart health, and mushrooms may have some properties that aid immunity. Although these ingredients are a welcome addition to a healthy diet, neither can offer scientifically substantiated immune health benefits.

guy shopping looking at phone

What’s driving consumer interest in research supported probiotic ingredients?

Download the Infographic to find out.

Get to know yeast beta glucans.

Some of the newest research supported immune health ingredients include yeast-derived beta glucans (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). Yeast beta glucans, like Wellmune®, have been shown to have well-substantiated immune-supporting properties. In fact, emerging evidence indicates that yeast beta glucans may help support immunity by acting as an immunomodulator, “training” the body’s immune cells to react more quickly when a pathogen is detected.

TIP: It’s important to note that when it comes to the immune health properties of yeast beta glucans, the source matters. Beta glucans extracted from the cell walls of baker’s yeast have a different molecular pattern from that of brewer’s yeast, which can influence the immune-modulating abilities of the final product.

Become an expert.

Learn more about beta glucan structure and benefits from our cheat sheet.

How to evaluate immune health ingredients.

Scientific substantiation is key.

In a marketplace crowded with choices, scientific substantiation is key. A survey conducted by Kerry, the makers of Wellmune, indicates that consumers are becoming increasingly proactive, choosing immune health products by looking for ingredients they recognize as well as by seeking out scientific data to support their efficacy.

With consumers demanding even more transparency, product manufacturers should be sure they are formulating products with research supported immune health ingredients. But the challenge for many manufacturers is evaluating immune health ingredients to fully understand the ingredient’s efficacy and benefits.

Where to begin?

Follow this checklist to ensure a safe, efficacious immune health ingredient.

  1. Ensure safety. Ensure the ingredient is supported by safety data published in a peer-reviewed journal and has been reviewed by the appropriate regulatory agencies.
  2. Verify the mechanism of action, which should be measured by its effect on the immune system.
  3. Determine whether the ingredient is an immune stimulant or modulator.
  4. Determine the quality and quantity of research.
  5. Determine the design of the study. Look for double-blind, placebo-controlled studies.
  6. Ensure the study was conducted on the appropriate ingredient. Benefits vary by strain.
  7. Determine the study’s outcomes. Look for outcomes related to biomarkers and physical health, and demonstrable benefit in humans.
  8. Ensure the ingredient is well-characterized. Ingredient characterization results in consistency in manufacturing, stability and efficacy, and shelf-life testing.
  9. Ensure data on the serving size confirms benefits in the ingredient’s recommended daily serving size.
  10. Verify formulation characteristics to ensure appropriate analytical methods are used to quantify the amount of the ingredient present in a finished product.

10 Questions to ask when evaluating an immune health ingredient

Need help knowing where to start?

Get the full story on evaluating immune heath ingredients.

How to meet kids’ immune health needs with research supported ingredients.

More healthy days.

When children get sick, it can cause a ripple effect that impacts siblings, parents, and caregivers. So extra help for developing immune systems can be good for the health of everyone in the family. Yet parents are finding it hard to choose health and wellness products they can feel good about.

The challenge is to formulate a product that helps support kids’developing immune systems in a format they will enjoy. In response, the market has expanded beyond supplements to encompass functional foods and beverages for kids.

two children running with their dad outside
Get the research.

As part of a growing body of clinical evidence on research supported immune health ingredients for kids, a recent study showed Wellmune helped keep kids significantly healthier against a placebo.

It’s all about taste and nutrition.

Immune support can come in many forms: supplement, food, or beverage. As moms know, encouraging kids to try something ‘good’ for them can be tricky. Manufacturers of functional products can meet this call by creating products kids will enjoy. Adding research backed immune health ingredients can help these products score well with parents too.

These children’s immune health product launches combine research backed ingredients parents want with tastes kids demand:

Nurture Fruity Waters, a natural fruity water beverage with Wellmune helps support the immune systems of children ages 2-5.


Fruit Friends™ Fortified Fruit Pouches provide support for kids’ immunity in a convenient, appealing format.

How to infuse sports nutrition with immune health benefits.

More healthy days for training.

Immune health has been shown to be a critical component of overall health—especially for athletes and active individuals. The addition of research-backed immune health ingredients in sports nutrition products is helping keep athletes healthy while providing new formats—and the category is growing. Clinical research in sports nutrition shows Wellmune helps increase vigor and mental clarity while reducing fatigue, and upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) symptoms in marathon runners.

Phab protein powder with Wellmune bags

Adding immune health benefits to protein products.

Phab Protein is ideal for consumers looking for protein for daily consumption and for protein supplementation after athletics or exercise.

How to provide immune support for older populations.

Goal: healthy aging.

Older adults typically require a nutrient-dense diet, even more so when they are active. As well, immune health is a key concern for consumers of nutrition products. Supporting immune function can increase seniors’ bounce-back rates and help protect from common respiratory illnesses. Formulating products with research supported immune health ingredients for aging populations can help meet older adults’ lifestyle goals.

Studies show that supplementation with Wellmune in older adults demonstrated positive health outcomes, and highlights the potential for Wellmune to improve general immune health during aging.

Immune health at any age.

claricell Essential product image
Claricell Healthy Aging replenishes key nutrients the body needs and supports overall health and wellness at all life stages.

Digest more with future-proof opportunities.

For manufacturers, continuing to create innovative products is a great way to help ensure consumer demand for immunity benefits can be met now and in the future. Discover functional foods, beverages, and supplements with research supported immune health ingredients

Why Wellmune® in your next immune health product?

Supported by science.

Growing evidence suggests yeast beta glucans may be uniquely positioned to support immune health. And Wellmune has a long history of research supporting its efficacy, with a dozen published, peer-reviewed clinical trials demonstrating its ability to support general immune health and overall health and wellness.

Looking for more information about how Wellmune can help create value for your immune health product and your customers? Contact one of our global supplement experts. 

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