root and powder

Adaptogens and Nootropics: The Future of Mood Food Fortification

Part two of our mood food series shows why adaptogens and nootropics are positioned to be the future of mood food and highlights some top ingredient choices for formulating mood and brain support products.


  • Adaptogens and nootropics are growing fast in foods and beverages with mood or brain positioning.
  • Active research, plus consumer interest in natural and plant-based will support their continued growth in mood food.
  • Hemp, ashwagandha, ginseng, rhodiola, and kava are the ones to watch.

What Are Adaptogens and Nootropics?

Adaptogens are natural substances used in traditional herbal medicine with the aim of helping the body adapt better to stress. The idea behind it is that a substance that could make the body’s systems more resilient to stress could also reduce anxiety and improve overall wellbeing.

Nootropics, on the other hand, are natural or synthetic compounds that can improve cognitive functions such as attention and memory. Stimulants such as caffeine and certain pharmaceuticals are examples of nootropics. Some amino acids and vitamins, as well as a number of botanicals are being studied for potential nootropic effects.

Growth in Adaptogens and Nootropics in Food and Beverage

According to Innova data, adaptogens have grown at a five-year CAGR of 107% in global food and beverage new product launches, while nootropics have grown 41%.1 In addition, a survey of global consumers by Innova found that 10% have purchased foods or beverages for brain health in recent months, while 8% have done so for de-stressing/relaxing/calming.2 This indicates adaptogens and nootropics are now beginning to expand beyond supplements.

Consumer demand for mood and brain support products continues to grow, with adaptogens and natural nootropics well-positioned to become leading ingredients. The strong consumer preference for natural ingredients, the buzz around plant-based, and the active research into these ingredients will help support their continued growth. In addition, nearly half (48%) of global consumers believe botanical or herbal supplements are effective.3

girl in school

We’ve even started seeing beverages in the market that combine adaptogens and nootropics, with messaging around lifting both the mind and mood. The potential for blending these ingredients also creates new opportunities in personalized products—for example, by addressing cognitive and mental health needs associated with different life stages to develop products for kids, teens, middle-aged adults, and seniors. 

Key Adaptogens and Nootropics in Mood and Mind Support Products


Recent global new product launches show hemp (including hemp oil) is a fast-growing botanical in supplements but is much less active in functional foods and beverages,4 indicating an opportunity for expansion. Hemp is widely associated with the nootropic CBD and can be found in products with calming/relaxing positioning. Some brands are flagging hemp as a source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known as essential nutrients for the brain.


Ashwagandha is an adaptogen that’s been used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. Tea is the most popular application for ashwagandha after supplements. Ashwagandha is most likely to be found in products with stress relief, sleep, or energy positioning, though sports nutrition is an emerging category based on the idea that better stress resilience could lead to better performance. Our functionally optimized ashwagandha uses microencapsulation to mask the bitter off-notes, allowing for higher usage concentrations.

root and supplements


Ginseng is another popular adaptogen. Many also consider it to be a nootropic, with research ongoing in this area. An Innova survey found that over a third (35%) of global consumers are very or extremely interested in foods and beverages that contain ginseng.5 Like hemp, ginseng is a fast-growing botanical in supplement launches but hasn’t shown the same growth yet in food and beverage.6


Rhodiola is a mountainous plant with a long history of use in Europe. This adaptogen can be found in products claiming benefits around stress relief, improving fatigue, and increasing energy. Sometimes rhodiola is combined with ashwagandha in stress relief products. Research is underway into potential nootropic benefits on learning and memory.


Kava is an adaptogen in use for thousands of years in the Pacific Islands as both a medicine and ceremonial drink. Kava has been studied primarily for possible calming/relaxing benefits, with a recent focus on its potential to treat anxiety and insomnia. Certain compounds in the kava root are known to cause a tingling or numbing sensation when chewed.

woman drinking tea

Formulating the Functional Foods of the Future

Adaptogens and nootropics are an exciting opportunity to meet consumers’ needs for mood and mind products in a natural, plant-based way. Ongoing research into these ingredients makes this an area to watch closely. Stay tuned for part three of our mood food series, where we will look at everyday nutrients for mental wellbeing.


1. Innova Market Insights, Trends Insider: Mood Health, 2022. Data 5 years ending Q1 2022.
2-3. Innova Market Insights, Ingredients Insider: Emerging Functional Ingredients, 2022.
4. Innova Market Insights, Ingredients Insider: Emerging Functional Ingredients, 2022. Data 5 years ending Q1 2022.
5. Innova Market Insights, Ingredients Insider: Emerging Functional Ingredients, 2022.
6. Innova Market Insights, Ingredients Insider: Emerging Functional Ingredients, 2022. Data 5 years ending Q1 2022.

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