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2021, Mood Food and Immunity

The 2021 New Nutrition Business 10 Key Trends in Food, Nutrition & Health are in: from alternative protein to better carbs and now the newly-emerging mood and immune boosting food categories.

Agriculture and food forecasting trends have often been possible via quantitative forecasting that reflects the past. However, in the last year we saw unprecedented change globally speeding up the development and adoption of specific consumer trends. The global pandemic fundamentally shifted our view of how food can play a significant role in supporting our mood and immune system.

Sharon Natoli, founding director of Food & Nutrition Australia and host of The Virtual Lunch Room highlights that the emerging mood and immune boosting food is more than just a trend but rather a demand that aligns the science.

"Good nutrition is critical for both mood and immunity. As people look for more natural ways to maintain good health, eating a well-balanced diet that includes naturally nutrient-rich foods is becoming increasingly important."

Although still in its infancy in Australia, food focused on mood and immunity is gaining legs. ADM research found that 31% of consumers seek out items tailored towards health, while 50% prefer options that contain naturally valuable ingredients. This shift in consumer behaviour isn’t unique nor a total surprise with 54% of American’s caring more about the healthfulness of their food and beverage choices in 2020 than they did in 2010.


Lockdown, uncertainty, economic downturns and increased unemployment have taken a toll on our mental wellbeing reminding us of our vulnerability; according to Roy Morgan, 40.5% of Australians reported suffering from mental health this year. As a result, consumers' interests have increased in foods designed to lift our frame of mind.

Sharon says that talking about food and mood and the role of specific nutrients in this area is a key opportunity for food makers and producers. "For example, there is good research to support a role for a Mediterranean diet in enhancing mood along with omega-3s, probiotics and fermented foods and nutrients such as vitamin D, B vitamins, magnesium and zinc."

This emerging trend is complemented by consumer behaviour: reducing carbs and sugar, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, avoiding highly processed foods and sleep promotion.

For those existing in or going to market with a mood-boosting product, New Nutrition Business recommends:

  1. Using a known ingredient and an emerging ingredient: the recognized ingredient provides reassurance, and the novel ingredient offers interest.

  2. Delivering a "feel the benefit": make sure consumers feel your product makes a difference.

  3. Promoting the emerging gut-brain axis: growing science is linking gut and brain benefits.


What has always been a widely accepted part of the culture and knowledge of the East, the concept of ‘food as medicine’ can now be seen to be adopted throughout the Western world. Sixty-four per cent of Western consumers are putting immune health on their shopping list and even making purchase decisions based on sensory attributes of the products themselves. Consumers are seeking out foods and beverages that are brightly coloured, indicating citrus flavours, sparking an association with vitamin C.

Ingredients that offer naturally functional benefits to consumers health and well-being has seen food sales spike in such categories as yogurt, kefir, and fermented foods. Meanwhile, US sales of kimchi reached a 952% YoY increase and since March 2020 yoghurt sales grew over 5% in the UK.

Twelve months ago, Ricky Chau, Managing Director of Taste Studios, launched a cold press juice range and noted its incredible success.

"Ironically, where the product sits as more a health supplement as opposed to as a drink or a juice. We have variations of antioxidants, botanicals and the top seller is immunity, and that just continues to increase on the back of COVID."

Although consumers will continue to go to supplements first to get a dose of the sought after ingredient, there are ways to attract their attention. Three recommended strategies by New Nutrition Business include:

  1. Harnessing the power of vitamins C and D

  2. Probiotics for prevention

  3. Connection to traditional and natural ingredients

So what does this mean for marketers of mood food and immunity products?

For those looking to enter the market or strengthen their products positioning, adding ticks for immunity and mood-boosting qualities is just the start. As the demand for health and wellness continues to grow across multiple segments, so do the opportunities to carve out a unique position in the category.

Stay tuned as we unpack the 2021 food trends over the next few months.

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