Immune boosters: the rise of immunity-boosting startups during covid

Covid has placed immunity top-of-mind for consumers as they increasingly seek products with added health benefits.

According to AI-powered Israeli food intelligence startup Tastewise shoppers are now looking for ways to boost immunity and lower stress through their food choices during COVID and found that “immunity” in relation to food searches rose 27% between February 2019 and March 2020. This uptick in interest for “better for you” products has created a comfortable gap in the market for startups offering these solutions.

As the wellness renaissance quickly takes effect tele-health company Ro confirms that startups offering functional benefits are seeing a spike in sales. 

“Some of our allergy products are up 30%, all the way to smoking cessation, which is upwards of 100%, to some of our sleep products that are actually over 1,000% month-over-month growth,”  says Zachariah Reitano, Ro’s co-founder and CEO.

As companies feel the squeeze from fast moving consumer behaviour, functional foods have definitely been established as one of the areas driving innovation in a new food ecosystem. Let’s find out which immune-boosting startups are ones to watch amid covid and what they can offer us:

Vital Proteins Beauty Collagen Tropical Hibiscus Flavor | Vital ...Image courtesy of Vital Proteins 

Vital Proteins 

Startup Vital Proteins, which develops collagen-supplemented powders, protein bars and capsules, experienced a whopping 50% rise for its suite of “better for you” products in the wake of the coronavirus, according to a recent Forbes report.

Founder Kurt Seidensticker came up with the idea of Vital Proteins with a clear aim of promoting the health benefits of amino acids in collagen, including improved joint health, skin elasticity and decreased wrinkling (whatta bonus!). Seidensticker believes that consumer interest in protein is moving beyond simple one-dimensional goals like weight loss and to improved health and life longevity which creates a gap in the market for startups on the same wavelength as Vital.

Taika's Canned Adaptogen Coffee Ticks the Boxes for Wellness ...
Image courtesy of Taika Drink

Taika Drink

Beverage brands with wellness connotations are thriving as public health concerns rise. Meet Taika: this startups refreshing offering combines caffeine and stress-relieving ingredients in their line of “better for you” coffees. With people stuck at home feeling incredibly anxious and stressed, now more than ever consumers look for food brands to help soothe their minds. Taika means “magic” in Finnish and the name is definitely fitting for this sugar-free, keto-friendly plant-based coffee beverage, just how do they do it?! All the flavours contain the same adaptogen blend of Cordyceps, Lions Maine, Reishi, Ashwagandha and L-theanine to balance out the effects of caffeine and keep the drinkers mind calm and focused. 

The company swagged $2.7 million in seed funding in order to take its products to market, from firms like Kindred Spirits (who has invested in equally as revolutional brands Blue Bottle Coffee and Zymergen) and Obvious Ventures. Taika has already managed to sell 50,000 cans and is available in stores across San Francisco. Next? The world!

YUNO Launches "BioTactical Drinks" to Provide Daily, Personalized ...Image courtesy of Yuno Biotactical Drinks

Yuno Bio Tactical Drinks

Immunity seemed to dominate May launches as Yunos new line of Biotactical Drinks hit the market, designed to optimize the users memory retention, relaxation, and energy. This is helped by the fact that the drinks are made with over 100 all-natural superfood ingredients formulated through a proprietary process to enhance natural absorption and hydration. The best part? Its 100% all natural with a 6-month shelf life and no refrigeration needed. They are also gluten-free, keto-friendly and vegan, what more could we ask for? By mixing and matching the six different YUNO’s, there are hundreds of combinations to try and the effects of the ingredients in the drinks can last up to eight hours.

The startup was made possible through the crowdfunding app Indiegogo with an ultimate goal of $25,000.

Shaka Tea Rebranded and Expands Distribution | World Tea NewsImage courtesy of ShakaTea 


Another brightspot for startups offering new products are those that provide health & immunity benefits without asking for major consumer behaviour change, this includes enhanced beverages like teas and wellness shots.

Big island-based ready to drink tea maker Shakatea has latched onto this advantage and managed to secure a $2.3million funding round led by Mahi Pono to accelerate its sugar-free, keto-friendly bottled tea.

Plant Protein+ - LVL / lev-el - LVL / lev-el
Image courtesy of LVL Life

LVL Lifes Superfood

Singapore-based LVL Life and its range of plant-based superfood powder blends have enjoyed a sales surge amid covid as consumers seek more plant-based products. The startups plant-based offering provides a range of health benefits including higher immunity and anti-inflammation. Founder Avinash Aswani told Foodnavigator that “We saw sales of Natural Immunity+ doing better during the recent COVID-19 outbreak due to the rising demand for immunity boosters and supplements”.

During the crisis many companies have been riding the e-commerce wave, and LVL Life have also been thriving online as they decided to reinforce their already resilient e-commerce strategy and move beyond retail.

Want to learn more about the rise of plant-based startups? In our next webinar with partners Eatable Adventures “Riding the Plant Based Wave: Leading the Food Revolution”, which will take place on Thursday, June 4 at 5:00 p.m., we will be joined by Nir Goldstein, Managing Director at The Good Food Institute Israel and Elizabeth Gutschenritter, Managing Director of Alternative Protein at Cargill who will offer their insights into the world of plant-based and the companies leading this new food revolution. Secure your place and sign up here!

Extra reading: Check out Tastewise 2019 Functional Foods Report here.

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