- Research shows mental and emotional wellness is important to consumers globally.
- Food and beverage launches for brain and mood support keep growing.
- Certain ingredients are favored for mood products, including botanicals and vitamins.
In part one of our three-part series on “mood food,” learn why more consumers are reaching for products with mood benefits and discover the top mood-boosting ingredients.
“Mood food” is a term for foods and beverages with mood support benefits. These benefits can range from focus and energy to relaxation and stress relief. Typically, mood food is a fortified or functional product that contains ingredients with specific bioactive effects that can influence the brain. With 60% of global consumers saying mental health is a key part of holistic health, 1 mood food is right on trend.
Innova reports that although the top ways consumers are improving their mental/emotional wellbeing are by getting more sleep and exercise, they also think foods and beverages that help mood are beneficial.2 Mental health is especially important for Millennials and Gen Z, with one in five global Gen Z consumers spending more on foods and beverages to uplift their mood in the post-COVID period, despite rising food prices.3
93% of consumers globally say they took some action to improve their mental/emotional wellbeing in the past twelve months like making changes to their diet/nutrition (28%) or taking supplements (24%).4 While only 5% purchased foods or beverages for enhancing mood, 36% believe these products can be effective, indicating significant room for growth.5
Global food and beverage launches with some type of brain health claim grew at a CAGR of 12% from 2017 to 2022, compared to just 4% overall for products with active health claims.6 Chocolates, bars, cookies, chips, ice cream, ready-to-drink beverages, and teas are some of the formats showing up for mood support products. These products feature mood-related terms and messaging such as: good mood, positive mood, reduce stress, de-stress, calm, relax, and unwind.
There are a number of ingredients to choose from when formulating food and beverage products for mood support. These well-known ingredients are among the most popular:
Omega-3 fatty acids are known to be essential for brain development in children. However, they’re also being studied for their role in neurotransmitter function and effects on depression and anxiety. Besides mood products, omega-3s may also be used in sleep support products, based on recent research linking low omega-3 levels to sleep difficulties.
Vitamins B6 and B12 are also key micronutrients required for brain health. Vitamin B6 helps create neurotransmitters and regulate the brain’s energy use, while vitamin B12 has a role in myelination and function of the central nervous system. These effects alone make vitamins B6 and B12 well-suited for brain/cognition products, but now research is looking at potential secondary effects on mood.
Adaptogenic herbs are used in traditional medicine to improve resilience to stress and include rhodiola, bacopa, ginseng, holy basil, and ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is the most widely used botanical in new product launches with brain/mood positioning, with a five-year CAGR of 115.8%.7 Other ashwagandha applications include sleep and immune support products.
Combining mood-boosting ingredients to capitalize on synergies or deliver multiple benefits is the next frontier in mood food. Examples include combining L-theanine with caffeine for use in focus products and ashwagandha with rhodiola for products with messaging around stress relief.
While those are some of the top ingredients being used in today's mood foods, other ingredients available to product developers include lion’s mane and reishi mushrooms, saffron, maca, lemon balm, hops, green tea extract, chamomile, lavender, basil, CBD, valerian, St. John’s Wort, L-tyrosine, L-tryptophan, choline, and probiotics.
Understanding the specific effects of these ingredients in the context of the mood benefit your consumer wants will be key to selecting and combining the right ingredients for the task. As a leader in nutritional and functional ingredients, Glanbia Nutritionals can support you in creating effective mood food solutions.
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