‘The awareness of the importance of overall immune health has reached critical mass with consumers’: Biothera CEO

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Consumer awareness of the importance of immune health throughout the year is driving significant growth in that category, and there are still plenty of opportunities in the category, says the CEO of Biothera.

Speaking with NutraIngredients-USA at the recent IFT Annual Meeting and Expo in New Orleans, Richard Mueller, said that the immune health market is growing very rapidly.

“Datamonitor now estimates that the market size in the US is over $15 billion and growing at a compound annual growth rate of over 7% per year,” he said. “Why is that happening? The awareness of the importance of overall immune health has reached critical mass with consumers.

“They may not know what the immune system does in the body but they understand that a strong healthy immune system is critically important to overall health.

“We also know from Datamonitor that immune health is the second most important category that consumers are looking for when they’re purchasing foods and beverages, second only to overall health and wellness.”

The market is no longer seasonal, he said, but is now a year round marketplace. “Eighty-eight percent of consumers today are looking for foods and beverages that have immune benefit in the product, and yet only 40% are actually buying products that have that benefit. To me that means opportunity for companies that have a clinically-supported immune ingredient in their products.”

The company has invested heavily in understanding the ingredient’s mechanism of action, said Mueller. “It simply works by priming the immune system and the most prevalent number of cells in the immune system, which are the neutrophils. The good thing is that your immune system doesn’t change with our ingredient on it until a challenge is present, and then it will get to the site of that challenge quicker and do a better job of killing the challenge.”

The fastest growth is in functional foods, said Mueller, with 50 products introduced in 2013 using Wellmune WGP, and 30 product launches so far in 2014 in different parts of the world.

Wellmune WGP, derived from the cell walls of a proprietary strain of yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) via a patented manufacturing process, is a natural carbohydrate that activates key immune cells.

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