The pandemic has fueled a growing trend in recent years: an interest in products that help to combat fatigue and maintain high performance at work or school. Different branded product categories such as energy drinks, juices, teas, flavored waters, supplements and chocolates are offering the benefits people are looking for, but now with the help of natural nootropics like caffeine, ginseng and maca, among others.
If before the pandemic our hectic routines already called for extra supplies of energy and zest, the new habits and lifestyles born from the pandemic – such as working from home in the same physical space shared simultaneously with children, household chores, study and leisure – have demanded much more effort from a large part of the population.
These are times that bring episodes of anxiety and stress, resulting in people becoming increasingly interested in products to help them take better care of their physical, mental and emotional well-being.
Food, beverages or supplements, related to the concept of mood food, that make it easier to face daily challenges are increasingly welcome, following popular trends for 2021 mapped by market intelligence agencies such as Feed The Mind, by Mintel, and Mood: The Next Occasion, by Innova Market Insights.
Mental health and holistic well-being are more important than ever, according to an Innova study carried out last year in the United Kingdom, the United States, Brazil, France, India, Germany, Mexico, China and Indonesia:
– 53% of consumers indicated that they took steps to improve their physical well-being;
– 44% were dedicated to improving mental and emotional well-being;
– 32% were involved in some kind of spiritual activity.
The pandemic has accelerated a process that would have taken a few years to occur. And, as studies suggest, immune system health will continue to be important for many consumers, even after vaccines.
And nature, with its inexhaustible source of active ingredients, is increasingly sought after in products by consumers, with ingredients that offer well-being in the form of energy, zest and focus.
A plus for brain performance
There are many ways for food and beverage companies to take advantage of this self-care movement. In addition to concerns with environmental responsibility, which is increasingly important to consumers, there is a demand for products that offer people improved concentration and energy and that help with dealing with stress, as pointed out in the “2021 Food and Drink Trends” study by Mintel.
Among consumers, beverages stand out as the most consumed items, mainly due to their convenience to satisfy consumer needs in terms of appearance and form of consumption, better storage possibilities and the ability to incorporate nutrients and bioactive compounds.
On his website (https://www.robertofrancodoamaral.com.br), pathologist Roberto Franco do Amaral Neto, who holds a postgraduate degree in nutrition, highlights the consumption of nootropic foods that improve focus, attention, memory and reasoning.
Coffee, chocolate and ginseng are examples of natural nootropics (substances that improve cognitive capacity) that humans have consumed since antiquity. More recently, newly discovered compounds, and more potent ones in some cases, are providing opportunities to innovate products for mental health and well-being.
According to Innova Market Insights, nootropics are gaining ground in both the dietary supplement market and the general food and beverage market, with specific “nootropic” statements that underscore the average annual growth of 62 percent (Global, CAGR 2016-2020). Other important demands involve memory, mental focus, agility, clarity, performance and endurance, as well as providing anti-stress, anxiolytic, comfort and calming properties.
In the market, for example, it is possible to promote mental energy with high-quality dark chocolate. Peak Focus contains natural nootropics, including lion’s mane mushroom, green tea extract, ginkgo biloba, natural caffeine and B vitamins.
Caffeine is the most commonly used nootropic in beverages because it increases alertness. However, experts warn that it should be consumed with caution as it creates both problems and solutions.
One solution is to combine smaller doses of caffeine with nootropics that target different cognitive areas for different brain enhancement.
Disputes between categories and opportunities
Energy drinks that are rich in caffeine, previously consumed to improve physical performance, are now becoming popular among people looking for products to help them combat fatigue and improve performance at work, providing greater zest, focus and energy.
In order to move forward, this product category must not only continue investing in communication, but also look at zero sugar versions, given the trend to reduce sugar consumption among consumers.
In Latin America, low-calorie energy drinks have gained popularity, according to Mintel.
Soft drinks are also starting to compete in this market with new caffeine versions, such as the version launched by Coca-Cola in a number of countries, in addition to flavored waters, juices and teas.
It is at this pace that companies continue in their quest for innovation, with 52% of global launches announcing the addition of vitamins/minerals, and the share of sugar-free product launches jumping from 20% to 25% between 2019 and 2020, according to Mintel.
Caffeine will likely be more prevalent in new soft drinks, juices and water products this year (2021) and in 2022.
Below are some products launched in Brazil and abroad focused on improving energy and concentration in different categories:
Sparkling water with benefits
Sparkling water is one of the fastest growing beverages in the US market, according to a study by Mintel. It is followed by sports drinks, which are looking for more market space by reducing artificial ingredients.
In the quest for better health and immunity, the trend is that the demand for alternatives to replace soft drinks will continue growing. One drink to place your bet on is flavored sparkling water.
According to Mintel, 71% of sparkling water consumers in the US say it is a better option than other soft drinks.
However, to ensure that flavored water can compete with rival beverages, companies need to establish the health credentials of their products by improving recipes and demonstrating benefits.
In 2020, there was a record number of global flavored water launches, featuring claims of benefits (17% of all launches) and fortified vitamins/minerals (19% of all launches). This growth is likely to continue, but with more evident information on labels.
A promising future for those looking for an improved well-being
Research suggests a promising future full of options for people looking for a healthier life in the pandemic, a time of increased stress and anxiety when people need to care for their physical, mental and emotional health.
Food and beverages have an untapped potential to help balance mood and emotions, in line with the global food and beverage trend in 2021.
Companies are not unaware of these transformations. On the contrary, they are investing to create new beneficial formulations, as well as food and beverage products with satisfactory colors, textures, aromas and other sensory stimuli that offer “comfort” to consumers.
What do you think the main challenges and opportunities in this area are? Let us know what you think!