Five Health & Nutrition Trends to Watch in 2021

Five consumer preferences and trends that we can expect in 2021

Almost all the trends for this coming year are influenced by something that nobody saw coming when we were looking ahead to 2020: COVID-19. That should give everyone pause when thinking about 2021. While we do our best to predict the landscape ahead of us, there’s always something that can come out of nowhere and change everything. That was definitely the case in 2020. Although the pandemic definitely influenced and even accelerated some of this year’s trends, it is not the only factor behind changing consumer needs, preferences and behaviors.

Looking forward we have compiled our findings – searching broadly across the industries we serve ­­­– to identify 5 consumer preferences and trends that we can expect in 2021.

Here’s to the future.



The following highlights the key takeaways of each trend. Click on the links below to read further.


  • Covid-19 turned immunity products into all-stars, boosting the entire supplement industry.
  • Watch for more growth in immunity, featuring botanical/nutraceutical ingredients.


  • Mental health products for things like stress, anxiety, and insomnia were already growing, but the pandemic caused some big growth numbers.
  • Watch for up-and-coming ingredients that address consumer demand for mood, stress and sleep support.


  • Pets are loving the lockdowns, as pet parents love their pets. And the number of new pet parents has grown too. The attention includes pet nutrition.
  • Watch for pet supplements to reflect the human nutrition trends around stress and immunity.


  • The growing group of flexitarians means plant-based proteins aren’t going anywhere.
  • This year watch for plant and animal protein blends start to emerge


  • Healthy fats continue to gain acceptance, thanks in large part to the ketogenic diet.
  • Watch for potential innovations in fat sources in 2021, and for the acceptance of fat to continue


Immunity Gets a Boost

Immunity support has become a critical part of today’s hectic lifestyle, as consumers are increasingly concerned about their health. Prior to the pandemic, immune support was already among the top three reasons consumers purchased supplements. An IRI Self-Care Survey done at this time reported that 45% of consumers were already increasing purchases of supplements for immunity support, and that the majority of respondents expected to change their behavior for the long term, focusing more on overall health and well-being. Since the emergence of COVID-19, consumers have an even greater awareness of self-care as it relates to immunity.

A recent survey by FMCG Gurus found that almost 60% of consumers worldwide said that since the pandemic began, they have become more conscious about their immune health.  To address this, today’s time-saving customers take the help of dietary supplements – even those that follow safe, nutritious diets. According to Nutrition Business Journal, this has resulted in unprecedented growth not seen since 1997 – with the supplement industry hitting double digit growth, with current estimates at 12.1% in 2020.[i]

The 2020 CRN Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements, which has been conducted annually since 2000, shows that immune support is now the number two reason for dietary supplement usage for all survey respondents (cited by 32% of respondents), and the number one reason for users aged 18-34 (38%).[ii]   The results from this survey continue to highlight consumer’s heightened awareness of self-care and an increased focus on ingredients that support their overall health & wellness – specifically their immune health.[iii]

Immune ingredients generally fall in two categories—strengthening natural barriers or directly modulating biological processes underlying immune response. While the category giants in high demand are vitamin c, vitamin d and zinc – other immune supplement ingredients have experienced significant growth.  According to data from Innova Market Insights, the growth in supplements with elderberry as an ingredient have seen a CAGR of 31% from 2017 to 2020 (Dec.).  The strong interest in botanicals like elderberry is supported by data from Nutrition Business Journal.  They report that the focus on immunity and general wellness has resulted in an estimated 10.6% growth in global herbs and botanicals.[iv]  The growth in the vegan population, flexitarians, and consumers seeking plant-based alternatives with fewer side-effects is driving the demand for these ingredients. The growth is also associated with the importance of clean label and science-backed health claims.

The increasing demand for botanical/nutraceutical ingredients, growing health concerns, and heightened awareness of self-care are expected to continue boosting the demand for immune health ingredients and supplements through this year. In 2021, we expect immune health to remain a high priority for consumers and manufacturers, steering the development of supplement and functional food products in the years to come.



Mental Health is a No-Brainer

Mental health, which was already a growing trend the past few years, was thrust into greater relevance as a result of the current health crisis. During this time, many consumers have experienced heightened stress, anxiety, and insomnia. Whether from kids at home doing school, the isolation of the lockdowns, financial challenges, or a lack of a good night’s sleep – everyone is looking for a way to deal with their own mental health.

The impact is being tracked. According to a survey done by the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and Harvard Medical School, more than half of Americans say they’re more stressed than they were before the pandemic. Similarly, an American Psychological Association (APA) survey, found that nearly 8 in 10 adults (78%) say the pandemic is a significant source of stress in their lives. The APA survey also reported that nearly 1 in 5 adults (19%) say their mental health is worse than it was at the same time last year.[v]

This increase of stress and anxiety has also resulted in many consumers suffering from disrupted sleep patterns. Prior to the pandemic, FMCG Gurus had already found that more than four in 10 consumers do not get more than six hours of sleep in an average night.[vi] Since the pandemic started, the numbers have gotten worse. According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 36% of Americans reported difficulty sleeping due to stress about the pandemic.[vii] Fears and anxiety related directly to the pandemic, its economic implications, lack of exercise, reduced exposure sunlight, and increased time in front of screens, has resulted in more people finding it difficult to shut down at the end of the day and get a good night’s sleep.

This rise of stress, anxiety and insomnia has led consumers to become more mindful about their mental wellbeing and the impact it can have on their overall health and wellness. In a July survey, FMCG Gurus found that 52% of consumers were more conscious about their overall mental health as a result of COVID-19, up from 39% in April. This increased awareness has led to greater use of supplements to address these issues – resulting in substantial growth in the cognitive health market.

The brain health category was a $1 billion industry in 2020, according to Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ).[viii] Likewise, SPINS data shows that overall sales growth on a monthly basis for products within the cognitive health category has increased considerably since January of 2020 ­– from $20.7 million reaching $36.4 million in October – with the previous three months of 2020 experiencing the sharpest increase, with monthly percentage growth of over 80% in dollar sales.[ix] Overall, NBJ anticipated a 12.1% growth rate for the brain health market in 2020 – primarily due to a growth rate of 30% for sleep promotion products and 14.6% growth in the stress and mood category.

In 2021, expect further growth in the brain health market as the pandemic proceeds to impact mental health and consumers continue to take action to improve their mental and emotional wellbeing. Watch for up-and-coming ingredients that address consumer demand for mood, stress and sleep support.



Perfect for Pets

The popularity of the supplement industry is increasingly extending to the pet space as more owners looking to proactively care for the health of their furry family members. Over the last several years, the pet supplement and treat market has seen continual growth. According to SPINS data, spending in the pet product industry has incrementally increased 450% year-over-year for the last 25 years, and consumers now spend $49 billion annually on pet food, supplies and treats.[x]  This past year had a unique effect on the pet supplement market as many people found themselves staying home more than ever – providing pets with increased attention and affection.

Not only are pets receiving more attention, but more were also being added to families. Pet ownership and adoptions has boomed during the pandemic, helping to further boost the overall pet market, significantly expanding the market for pet supplements. A recent survey by Packaged Facts, reported that approximately 25% of dog or cat owners added a pet to their household in 2020, with 8% of current dog owners and 6% of current cat owners being first-time pet owners. Furthermore, the survey stated that 15% of those that acquired or adopted pets reported doing so at least partly due to COVID-19.[xi]

In addition to its impact on pet ownership, the pandemic has also increased owners’ concerns over their pet’s health and wellness. A recent survey by Packaged Facts, reported that 42% of dog owners and 43% of cat owners are paying closer attention to their pet’s health and wellness. Of those surveyed, nearly a quarter of dog and cat owners expressed concern about their pet’s anxiety and stress, and one-fifth were especially concerned about their pet’s immune system health. Correspondingly, one in six dog and cat owners reported making changes directly related to the pet health care products they purchase.[xii]

It seems that pet owners tend to reflect their own beliefs and preferences on their companion animals. This personification of pets is increasing demand for pet food and supplement products that are as good, or better, as those available for people themselves. Consequently, similar to the human nutrition market, the pet market is experiencing a movement towards natural ingredients. SPINS reported significant growth in natural products versus conventional, citing information from Packaged Facts which stated that 69% of millennial pet owners and 44% of owners over 35 are more likely to consider products with naturally-made ingredients versus conventional, mass-produced foods.[xiii] Pet product companies are responding in kind with innovative products that are well formulated, containing ingredients that target the specific needs of our four-legged friends.

Consider the growth in CBD – the popularity in the human market over the last couple years is reflected in the pet market as well.  According to research by Brightfield Group, 64% of pet owners are using CBD for their pets to reduce anxiety or stress, which is also the top conditions that human CBD users report taking CBD for. The report went on to state that the CBD pet market in 2019 grew 10 times its 2018 size and is projected to reach $1.7 billion by 2025. [xiv]

In 2021, watch for continued growth in pet food and supplement sales, and an increase in demand for natural ingredients that address immune support and anxiety/stress.


Proteins Flex

The plant-based trend is seeing another year on to top of many 2021 lists.  There is plenty of data confirming its growth.  According to a May 2020 article from SPINS, plant-based food sales, like other retail food sales, experienced a significant spike in mid-March during peak panic buying. During this time, plant-based foods were up a whopping 90% when compared to last years’ sales. Throughout the four weeks following peak panic buying, total plant-based foods sales grew at 27%, which is 35% faster than total retail food.[xv]

The growth in plant-based foods hints at wider acceptance of flexitarianism – a diet that includes both plant-based foods and animal products. The health “halo” associated to plant-based diets, alongside growing concerns about animal-based products and their environmental impact are giving rise to higher rates of consumers practicing a flexitarian diet. A recent Packaged Facts consumer survey found that 36% of consumers now identify as flexitarian, continuing to eat meat and dairy but regularly mixing vegan or vegetarian meals into their diets. This compared to only 3% of consumers that identified as vegan and 5% that identified as vegetarian.[xvi]

Due to the rise of flexitarians, plant proteins are giving animal-based proteins a run for their money. However, as interest and demand in plant proteins continue to rise, so do consumer demands. Research shows that consumers interested in plant-based products are becoming more demanding when considering plant proteins.[xvii] Key among the demands include taste, texture and efficacy – characteristics where animal-based proteins typically have an advantage.

An innovation that’s starting to show early indications of entry and growth is plant and animal protein ‘hybrids’.  According to an Innova Market Insights consumer survey, 35% of global consumers say they would prefer a mix of plant and animal products, compared to 22% who prefer 100% plant-based options.[xviii] Additionally, a report by New Nutrition Business suggested that blended or hybrid protein products, could appeal to both flexitarians’ good intentions and their desired product characteristics.[xix]

This year watch for plant and animal protein blends start to emerge. Is there a market for those who want to have the advantages of both?


Fats Aren’t All Bad

Long-stigmatized, dietary fat is gaining greater acceptance among consumers – specifically among those under the age of 44 – quickly losing the aversion to fat and more actively seeking out healthy fats. According to a recent study by New Nutrition Business, 34% of 25- to 44-year-olds want to eat more healthy fats. The study, which looked at attitudes of people in the UK, Spain, US, Brazil and Australia, found that more consumers are trying to consume more ‘good fats’, with 25% of consumers in America, 23% in the UK and 30% in Spain embracing fats. This is substantially up from 10 years ago, when the average was around 5%.[xx] This in turn has created opportunities for healthy fats to gain further influence in products across multiple categories.

The trend toward an acceptance of fat has been underway for many years. Of course, the Keto diet – that hails the benefits of fats – has boosted the popularity of high-fat lifestyles. In 2020, the keto diet ranked as the top searched diet on Google – proving that the diet’s popularity is not disappearing anytime soon! Following suit, launches of products with the word “keto” in the product name have a CAGR of 84.5% between 2015-2019 in North America, with the number of product launches in 2020 higher than 2019. As a result of its popularity, carbohydrates and sugars have been shunned, further bolstering the acceptance of fats.

Today, just 16% of Americans view fat consumption as the most likely nutrient to cause weight gain, compared to 48% who pointed to carbs and sugar, according to New Nutrition Business. Moreover, Nielsen data showed that 50% of consumers planned to limit their sugar intake in 2019. [xxi]

Recently, emerging research has challenged the negative connotations of fats, and nutrition experts have increasingly recognized the role that specific fats play in health. Along with this, consumers are becoming more informed, doing their own research, and embracing the idea that fats can be good.

The macronutrient trends are usually around for a while. The challenge for companies is to ensure they use high quality fats where they can point to a good, natural source. Watch for potential innovations in fat sources in 2021, and for the acceptance of fat to continue.




[i] New Hope Network: “The Analyst’s Take: What will the supplement industry look like in 2021?”,
[ii] New Hope Network: “The Analyst’s Take: What will the supplement industry look like in 2021?”,
[iii]2020 CRN Consumer Survey on Dietary
[iv] New Hope Network: “The Analyst’s Take: What will the supplement industry look like in 2021?”
[v]American Psychological Association (APA): “Stress in America: A National Health Crisis”
[ix] Nutraceuticals World: “Brain Health: A Mysterious Frontier”,
[x] SPINS: “Pet Trends 2020: What’s Driving Today’s Pet Parents”,
[xii] Packaged Facts November/December 2020 Survey of Pet Owners
[xiii] SPINS: “Pet Trends 2020: What’s Driving Today’s Pet Parents”,
[xiv] Nutraceutical Business Review: “Pet market: 48% of pet owners are replacing Rx treatments with CBD”,
[xv] SPINS: “New Data Shows Plant-Based Food Outpacing Total Food Sales During COVID-19”,
[xvii] FoodNavigator “Where next for plant-based in 2020? ADM shares top trend predictions for the category”,
[xviii] Food Technology Magazine: “Dairy-Derived Proteins Expand the Playing Field”,
[xx] FoodNavigator .com: “Fats in fashion: ‘Fat is the product developers’ friend’”,
[xxi] FoodDive: “Younger consumers want more fat, study finds”,

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