How do you market your immune supplements for COVID-19? That’s easy: You don’t.
In response to COVID-19 and rising interest in immune system health in general, consumer demand for immune supplements is increasing. This creates an opportunity for supplement makers that is nevertheless fraught with risk.
This blog post shares some quick tips on marketing your immune supplements responsibly during this era of both heightened immune challenges and heightened immune claims sensitivity.
How closely has the FDA scrutinized COVID claims?
Consider: by March 2020, the FDA had already issued warning letters to seven supplement companies that had been making fraudulent claims related to curing, preventing, and treating COVID.
By 2020’s end, the FDA had issued 136 warning letters to supplement companies for “Unapproved and Misbranded Products Related to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).”
Following are a few examples of FDA-flagged COVID-19 claims fraudulently asserting supplements are intended to mitigate, prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure coronavirus:
- “So it’s widely acknowledged in both science and the medical industry that ionic silver kills coronaviruses.”
- “Worried about your fam [sic] coming down with colds, flu, or even worse – the coronavirus? Luckily, natural remedies can help! We’ve put together a Respiratory Aid Kit to help get through the respiratory illnesses more quickly and more easily.”
- “Licorice Root For Coronavirus? . . . ‘Licorice root as a potential treatment for Coronavirus (COVID-19).’”
The FDA reported finding these fraudulent claims across many marketing channels, including:
- Company Facebook posts
- Company websites
- Blog posts
- Affiliate marketers/Amazon Associates
For the full list of FDA warning letters related to COVID claims, specifically, click here.
The FDA acted early and aggressively on coronavirus claims. Justifiably so: The above examples illustrate why fraudulent COVID claims are both dangerous to consumers and poisonous for the entire supplement industry. But the examples above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to irresponsible dietary supplement immune claims.
So how can supplement makers responsibly meet consumer demand for a mythical “COVID pill”?
Don’t address COVID… address immune health.
Immune health was a strong category before 2020 and is now projected for even greater growth. According to Research Nester, the immune supplements category will experience a CAGR of 7.5% and achieve a total market size of $28 Billion by 2028. Consider: This market research was conducted prior to the global pandemic.
In order to realize immune supplements’ vast potential to generate sales and support consumers’ health, supplement manufacturers must market their immune formulas responsibly. Here are some tips to do just that:
Never mention COVID-19 by name
COVID in any of its monikers should be avoided at all costs across any product content that is intended for the public. Other words to avoid include flu, cold, virus, coronavirus, pandemic, or any variations thereof. All these words were already sensitive “red flag” words prior to 2020; even more so now.
Keep immune claims conservative
Avoid the following, as well, in all variations:
- Strengthen your defenses
Instead, consider language like:
- Supports healthy immune function
- Helps maintain your natural defenses
- Supports balanced immune responses
Use substantiated and well-researched immune support ingredients only
To make the strongest immune health claims, focus your formulation on the most widely researched, doctor-recommended, and government-recommended nutrients for supporting healthy immune system function. Some examples:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin C
Researchers have reported that insufficient intake of these essential nutrients appears to weaken immune responses and make people more vulnerable to viral infections.  While it’s inadvisable to make that exact claim, a supplement manufacturer can nevertheless formulate with Vitamin D, Zinc, and Vitamin C in the context of immune support to meet consumer interest and demand.
Turmeric, Elderberry, and Probiotics are strong immune support ingredients to consider. Not only is there built-in demand in times of immune challenges, but they also have abundant research in the context of immune health and a long history of safe, effective usage.[4,5,6]
Always have your lawyer review
Immune health is a difficult moving target for supplement marketers. Always have your FDA-versed lawyer review your marketing materials before publication.
Fraudulent COVID-19 claims are bad for the supplement industry’s overall growth. Beyond defrauding consumers of money, buying into false claims can delay consumers from getting a doctor’s diagnosis and treatment — potentially putting their health and well-being at serious risk.
Immune health, however, remains a strong nutritional supplement category with a promising future. Help to support your customer’s overall health with well-designed immune health products, manufactured in a pristine facility and marketed responsibly. Remaining true to the mission of health and not hype will keep everybody happy and enable us to keep making immune supplements for decades to come.