Cognitive health: Still top of mind for consumers?

Between 2015 and 2020, the market for memory and cognitive health-positioned supplements saw a compound annual growth rate of 7% globally, according to insight from Euromonitor International, but with a global pandemic at play, is mental health still top of mind?

While COVID-19 may have shuffled priorities—bringing significant boosts to some categories and creating a downturn in others—Euromonitor expects growth of products for memory and cognitive health to be sustained at around 5% for 2020, despite the challenges and altered priorities brought about by the global heath crisis that is COVID-19.

“While commonplace health conditions like bone, heart, joint or even digestive health show drastically different levels of concern by age group (with consumers aged 60+ overwhelmingly more concerned about these conditions than their children or grandchildren), cognitive health is the rare concern that cuts across cohorts, worrying consumers of all ages,” says Matthew Oster Head of Consumer Health at Euromonitor International.

“Unlike other health demands, the request for cognitive health has not abated in the time of COVID-19; rather, the market for these products has seen strong growth in 2020 consistent with growth seen prior to the pandemic,” he added.

According to Euromonitor’s 2020 Health and Nutrition Survey—conducted just before COVID-19 hit last year—cognition, sleep, and mental and emotional wellbeing are top of mind for consumers of all generations.

High-stress environments

More than half of global consumers surveyed by Euromonitor claimed they are currently suffering from “moderate,” “high,” or “extreme” stress levels.

Innovations within the global vitamins and dietary supplements marketplace are catering to this demand, with nootropic ingredients rising in recognition and popularity, says Oster.

“In this space, herbal/traditional ingredients have retained popularity; products like ginkgo biloba are seeing steady interest from consumers across ages. Other traditional remedies, such as ayurvedic herbs like brahmi (or bacopa monnieri), are making inroads into wellness communities as promising ingredients for memory retention and focus for older consumers,” he suggested. “Other herbal solutions like spearmint and Traditional Chinese Medicine solutions like mushrooms hold promise to increase focus and limit age-related cognitive decline.”

Oster says such ingredients are filtering down into the food and beverages marketplace, as cognition and memory-oriented products become mainstream.

“Drinks have become an apt format for cognitive health given that many common ingredients in this space have nootropic properties, above all caffeine,” he adds. “Though not typically thought of as a cognitive health product, caffeine has been shown to boost alertness and improve performance on cognitive tasks, which allowed the ingredient to become a good entry point to nootropics.”

In addition to coffee, teas are also becoming central to the development of the category as a natural format for cognitive health—for example teas blended with l-theanine or ginkgo biloba to boost concentration for short periods.

Refocusing energy

According to Euromonitor, energy drinks are also shifting positioning away from pure ‘energy boosts’ toward benefits like focus and concentration as they begin to incorporate a variety of natural nootropics. “This positioning shift has allowed energy drinks to market to consumer groups that need sustained focus plus energy, such as students and esports enthusiasts,” says Oster.

“Finally, packaged foods are starting to get into the space as well, recognizing the connection between focus and snacking,” Oster continued, noting that before the pandemic there had been significant promise for ‘on-the-go’ nootropic-positioned snacks like energy bars.

“While the pandemic altered the consumption occasions for these products, interest will likely return in due course,” he said. “Fortified bars remain a quick and easy format to stimulate energy and focus for consumers needing a short-term boost of mental clarity.”

Learn more about cognitive health from Euromonitor at the Naturally Informed virtual event Mental Wellness: Mastering the Market, taking place January 20-21. Register here.

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Nathan Gray is an industry analyst and consultant with more than a decade of experience in the food and nutrition space and more than 15 years in media and science communication. An experienced communicator and strategic connector, Nathan brings with a wealth of experience and expertise in food technology, nutrition science and wellness trends. As an industry thought leader, he is passionate about innovation and scientific discovery in nutrition – and in particular the microbiome and sports nutrition categories. Nathan has a BSc Human Biosciences from the University of Plymouth, UK, where he specialized in exercise nutrition, immunology and science communication. After this he gained a postgraduate certification in Science and Environmental Journalism at the University of Lincoln, UK, where he worked on radio and TV productions in addition to online and print journalism. Alongside his work with Trust Transparency Center and the Global Prebiotic Association, Nathan runs European consultancy Nutraceutic. He was previously Senior Editor at NutraIngredients – covering the functional food, supplements, and wellness space, and co-ran the European content team for William Reed’s Global Brands Division. Between 2010 and 2020, Nathan worked in a various roles and regions within William Reed, including managing NutraIngredients and FoodNavigator in Europe, managing and overseeing the development of BeverageDaily and DairyReporter globally, helping to launch NutraIngredients-Asia, and driving the creation and long-term development of industry-leading events like Probiota, Food Vision, Sports Nutrition Summit and the NutraIngredients Awards.