Mental Health: food and drinks for stress relief and restful sleep

June 24, 2021

Reading time5 minutes

The pandemic drives consumers’ interest in functional foods and beverages that help them achieve well-being and emotional balance. The movement opens opportunities for different product categories to explore the immense potential of nature in creating formulations with more botanical ingredients.

The pandemic has changed routines, lifestyle habits and has further increased the interest of people of different age groups in products that help to overcome the effects of stress and fatigue, relax and improve the quality of sleep.

News about the complications of Covid-19, especially in people with comorbidities and older people, reinforced the need for good physical health. In parallel, the isolation and uncertainties experienced from March 2020 on made people start to value their well-being, care for mental health and emotional balance even more.

To deal with stress and its effects, some people prefer to resort to the flavors and textures of snacks or chocolates, others have expanded their search for products that offer functionality, with botanical ingredients such as chamomile, lemon balm, lavender.

A movement that drives the use of botanical compounds in the creation of formulations to help balance mental and emotional health, enabling consumers to understand its connections with their diet.

Nature boosts product launches – In 2020, the first year of the pandemic, there was a global increase of 26% in the launch of products aimed at relieving stress, according to Mintel GNPD.

Among the food and beverage launches claiming stress relief and improved sleep quality, chamomile, lemon balm, lemongrass and lavender top the list of ingredients.

This is mainly because the plants and their vast source of active compounds, through botanical extracts, dehydrated ingredients, aromas and essential oils, have become strategic allies of the brands in the creation and products development with this claim.

A group of natural compounds that gain attention for stress relief are adaptogenic ingredients, among which are maca, basil, ashwagandha, different types of ginseng and others. There is also a group of herbs that have relaxation benefits and sleep-promoting potential, including the well-known chamomile, peppermint, lemon balm, lavender, passion fruit and hops.

A world of possibilities – So far, in addition to vitamin and dietary supplements, hot beverages such as teas and other ready-to-drink beverages such as juices and nutritious drinks can be highlighted as the main subcategories that deliver this “relaxation” functionality.

Teas with calming ingredients, such as chamomile or passion fruit, are examples that are already on the market of products that help you relax. In 2019, 56% of all global food and beverage launches with functional stress/sleep claims were in the tea subcategory, according to Mintel.

But other possibilities are emerging. Brands that are aware of this demand have a universe of opportunities to innovate in the most different categories of products with formulations focused on features to strengthen the immune system and help people manage their mental and emotional well-being, exploring the concept of comfort.

After all, according to a Mintel report from July last year, 73% of Brazilians interviewed agree that having healthy eating habits is important for emotional, mental health and physical health.

Brands that are already exploring this concept – The market has already evolved in this regard, but there is still room for much more, taking advantage of the immense potential of nature. Other categories can borrow popular calming ingredients found in herbal teas, for example, or even beers, such as hops.


The Brazilian H2OP Sparkling Water is an example of a non-alcoholic drink that is starting to explore this space, promoting the relaxing properties of botanical ingredients. In the case of H2OP, it is hops which, according to the manufacturer Araucária, provides numerous herbal benefits, including antioxidant, antiseptic and calming action (Brazil).


Almond Milk with Chamomile Flower Extract is a bet by Almo Milk to combat stress (Australia).


Yochá introduces lavender as a key ingredient against stress in its Earl Gray & Lavender Stress Away Kombucha (Singapore).


The Innocent Super Smoothie Blue Spark smoothie also has an innovative proposal. Made from guava, pineapple, apple and blue spirulina, it contains vitamins B3 and B6 to contribute to normal psychological functioning and vitamin C to reduce tiredness and fatigue (UK).


Meda launched a soothing drink based on botanical extracts, sweetened with honey and made with added vitamins and 15 mg of liposomal broad spectrum organic cannabidiol (CBD). According to the manufacturer, the product contains L-theanine to relieve anxiety; vitamin B blend to improve mood; lemon balm for stress reduction; lavender essential oil to promote relaxation and reduce restlessness; chamomile for a calming effect; and ashwagandha to help reduce cortisol (UK).


The herbal soup Eu Yan Sang promises to calm the mind and improve vitality. Ingredients include Vietnamese coriander, lily bulb, Chinese yam and goji berries (Malaysia).


Good chocolate could not be missing – Glico GABA Mental Balance Milk Chocolates for Sleep guarantees improved sleep quality through GABA – gamma-aminobutyric acid (Japan).

To take advantage of this trend, in addition to creating innovative products, industries will have to move to prove that the ingredients deliver the functionality. According to Mintel, functional products supported by scientific research will lead the market. Another way is to use technology. As governments and employers work to improve public health, the opportunity will arise to encourage healthy eating through apps, games and rewards.

This path has no turning back, points out a study by Mintel. Food, beverages and food services still have untapped potential to create more functional formulations to help people of all ages relax, deal with stress and anxiety, and enjoy greater well-being and emotional balance.

Are brands open to you to identify and explore these opportunities? What are the main challenges to launching new products with functionality? Tell us!

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