woman taking supplement

4 Things to Know about Nootropics

Whether for work or school, consumers everywhere are looking for ways to perform their best mentally. Nootropics offers an exciting opportunity to meet this need.


  • Launches of supplements for mental acuity have been growing fast.
  • Drivers include interests in mental wellness, cognitive performance for sports, and biohacking.
  • There is a wide variety of nootropic ingredients to address this need.
  • Consumers need more education about nootropics.
  • Younger males are the most interested in nootropics.

Consumer Interest in Brain-Boosting Products on the Rise

The number of US supplement launches with brain/mood health positioning grew at a CAGR of 23% from 2018 to 2022, while those with mental acuity claims grew at a CAGR of 70%.1 Some factors driving this high growth are consumers’ increasing interest in mental wellness, plus a growing awareness of the importance of cognitive performance in sports and fitness

The trend in biohacking (i.e., using a scientific approach to optimize one’s health and wellness) is also gaining traction. Nootropics are well-positioned to address all of these interests (with #biohacking already a popular tag for nootropics on social media). However, there are still many consumers and brands that don’t know about them.

What are Nootropics?

Nootropics, also known as cognitive enhancers, are substances claimed to boost brain performance—enhancing learning, memory, focus, motivation, and even creativity. Nootropics range from natural substances like herbs to pharmaceuticals. While some substances have long been associated with certain cognitive benefits, a great deal of research is underway to determine the role these substances might play in the brain.

Areas of exploration have included the potential to influence the concentrations, release, or uptake of certain neurotransmitters, hormones, or enzymes. These actions might lead to an increase of nutrients or oxygen to the brain, the stimulation of certain nerves, or the mitigation of inflammatory responses in the brain—all possible ways to cause a temporary improvement in the brain’s so-called executive functions.

What Nutrition Brands Should Know About Nootropics

1. Nootropic Ingredients Come from a Variety of Sources

Nootropics include many different types of ingredients that can be used in foods, beverages, and supplements. Some of the best known are caffeine (a natural stimulant in coffee, tea, and cocoa) and L-theanine (an amino acid in tea), as well as vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. Creatine and choline are two nootropics often associated with sports nutrition products.


There are also a number of nootropic botanicals—often with histories of use in traditional Asian medicine. Ginkgo biloba and Panax ginseng are well known in Chinese medicine, while ashwagandha and Bacopa monnieri (or Brahmi) have roots in Indian Ayurvedic medicine. In addition, maca (from South America) and Rhodiola Rosea (from Northern Europe) are becoming more widely used in nootropic products.

2. Consumers are Less Familiar with the Term “Nootropics”

While 28% of US consumers are interested in better-for-you foods with cognitive support benefits, only 7% indicate an interest in nootropics.2 This indicates that despite strong interest in products that can help cognitive performance, the term “nootropics” is still unfamiliar to many consumers (though certain nootropics—like caffeine—are well known).

This lack of awareness indicates brands should emphasize the specific cognitive benefits of their supplement or functional product rather than relying on consumers to recognize the term “nootropics” or even the name of nootropic ingredients. Brands can also build trust by communicating any research supporting the positive effects of the ingredient.

man at computer

3. Younger Males are the Most Interested in Nootropics

The demographic most interested in nootropics are men aged 18-34 (15%), followed by men aged 35-54 (12%).3 This indicates that brands launching nootropic products would be most effective initially targeting younger male consumers. For women, 9% of those aged 18-34 and 8% of those aged 35-54 show interest.4 According to Mintel, Gen Z likes performance-boosting products and has started making the connection between mental wellbeing and brain function.5

For Gen Z, phrases like “Energizing the mind” and “Stimulating focus” can help communicate the benefits of nootropics. –Mintel6

Those 55 and older express the least interest in nootropics (with only 2% of women and 1% of men in this age bracket interested).7 Since cognitive support is often considered to be an important concern for seniors, it’s possible this low interest in nootropics stems from a lack of familiarity with the term. 

4. Lion’s Mane, Ashwagandha, Magnesium, Bacopa, and Choline are the Most Used

The top nootropics used in 2022-2023 US launches of supplements for mental acuity were lion’s mane mushroom (15%), ashwagandha (12%), and bacopa (11%).8 For supplements with brain/mood positioning, magnesium stearate (22%), ashwagandha (14%), and choline (8%) were the most prevalent.9 (Globally, launches with choline/citicoline doubled between 2018 and 2022, with the strongest growth in soft drinks and sports nutrition, often featuring a focus claim).10

woman sitting on steps holding drink

Ingredients consumers tend to associate with the brain can also be good candidates for inclusion in nootropic products. For example, 37% of global consumers associate fatty acids with improved brain function.11 31% have this association with caffeine, while 27% associate vitamins with boosting brain function.12

Glanbia Nutritionals: The Smart Choice for Nootropic Ingredients

Products that can offer consumers a cognitive boost to help them tackle today’s demanding lifestyles hold broad appeal. Understanding the options in nootropic ingredients and continuing to educate consumers on their benefits will be key for manufacturers. If your brand is exploring this high-potential area, we have a wide range of solutions for creating a nootropic blend that’s just right for you.

Our premix solutions include All N® Premix Formulas—scientifically backed, off-the-shelf blends of active ingredients that address targeted concerns like cognition—which can also be easily customized to your needs. And don’t miss our latest innovation: functionally optimized, high-concentration KSM-66® Ashwagandha powered by NutraShield™ microencapsulation technology.

Get in touch with one of our product experts at Glanbia Nutritionals to learn more.


1. Innova Market Insights, Growth Segments in Supplements in the US, December 2023.
2-4. Mintel, Better For You Eating Trends – US, November 2023.
5-6. Mintel, Managing Stress and Mental Wellbeing – US, January 2023.
7. Mintel, Better For You Eating Trends – US, November 2023.
8-9. Innova Market Insights, Growth Segments in Supplements in the US, December 2023.
10. Innova Market Insights, Functional F&B: Brain Supplements for Coping with a Stressful Life – Global, August 2023.
11-12. GlobalData, Industry Insights: Category Innovation Opportunities with Nootropics, November 2023.

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