Mood ingredients: Plant extracts and fiber pegged as holistic ingredients for mental health and well-being – Food Ingredients First
31 Aug 2022 — As stress is a significant health concern, with 67% of adults reporting increased stress throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the American Psychological Association, the industry is formulating NPD and ingredients that impact mood.
FoodIngredientsFirst speaks with industry experts from Arjuna Natural, Blue California and WholeFiber. They delve into the potential of the mood ingredient space – where plant extracts like adaptogens and fiber solutions impact consumers’ moods.
Blue California details that in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic and now inflation, consumers worry about health and financial uncertainties, which can negatively impact mental health and sleep patterns.
The overarching idea of holistic health has led consumers to adopt a multifaceted approach to overall wellness.
“This notion plays a strong role in the mood ingredients space. More consumers recognize that all aspects of wellness are interrelated and less isolated. For example, good mental health or supporting a stable mood can impact immunity and sleep,” says David Tetzlaf, director of marketing at Blue California.
According to Arjuna Natural, the focus on mental health has increased in recent years with growing interest in mood-enhancing ingredients that help manage cognitive health, promote mental and emotional well-being, and improve sleep.
“Popular adaptogens such as holy basil, ginseng and ashwagandha are trending due to their potency in easing anxiety and managing stress,” details Benny Antony, joint managing director at Arjuna Natural.
Solutions for stress, anxiety and brain health
WholeFiber details that mood and sleep ingredients are new product concepts developed in recent years.
The link between a healthy diet and the prevention of so-called “lifestyle diseases” is proven and accepted more,” stresses Marianne van Es, chief commercial officer and managing director at WholeFiber.
“Having a healthier gut by consuming the right and enough dietary fibers has a positive impact on health and mental health.”
Meanwhile, Arjuna Naturals adds that shoden ashwagandha has been studied for stress and anxiety.
“Sleep and cognitive health stood well with efficacy both as subjective and objective markers showing its anti-stress and anti-anxiety benefits, making it a good option for the mood ingredient space,” says Antony.
Blue California notes that consumers recognize that a good night’s sleep can support other areas of their health and a lack thereof can negatively impact health.
“To support immunity by improving sleep, consumers are taking steps to seek F&B to supplement their diets, such as adaptogens that can help the body adapt to stress. Blue California’s L-TeaActive L-Theanine is ideal for calming moods and relaxation and can support rest,” says Tetzlaf.
Fiber and the gut-brain axis
According to WholeFiber, the human gut is connected to the brain via millions of neurons, which has a highly bidirectional relationship, the so-called gut-brain axis.
“The vagus nerve is an important player in the gut-brain axis,” says van Es. “The gut microbiota can send signals to the vagus nerve, which can influence inflammation processes, among others, in the body. It is theorized that mental well-being can be affected by modulating the gut microbiota.”
“Furthermore, recent research has shown that people with major depressive disorders have a different gut microbiota profile compared to people without these depressive disorders,” she adds.
“Reports also indicate positive results of hypnotherapy in people with functional bowel disorders, showing a clear link between gut and brain.”
Boosting mood ingredient concepts
According to WholeFiber, mood ingredient concepts can be boosted by explaining the importance of good nutrition for health, including mental health.
“Natural or whole food products and ingredients that are minimally processed and have a positive effect on gut health are viewed as a positive and natural way to increase health and mental health via the gut-brain axis,” says van Es.
Meanwhile, Blue California adds that as consumers seek support to achieve their overall wellness goals, there is a great opportunity for F&B brands to explore adaptogens such as its L-TeaActive L-Theanine to incorporate into current and NPD offerings.
“Adaptogens can greatly reduce this stress and help the body maintain homeostasis to keep inflammation in check,” says Tetzlaf. “They can help the body adjust to stress and restore physiological balance. As an adaptogen found in tea leaves, L-theanine may help promote a feeling of calm by increasing the activity of alpha brain waves.”
He explains that L-theanine is an amino acid that supports relaxation and aids in healthy stress response by potentially reducing cortisol levels, the stress hormone.
“Adaptogens, like L-theanine, respond to the body’s mental and physical reactions to stress and may help balance hormone levels, evoking calmness and focus. L-theanine is a suitable ingredient for anti-stress and increased focus, delivered in functional beverages, dietary supplements, and other related products,” details Tetzlaf.
Emerging mood-enhancing ingredients
Regarding ingredients emerging in the mood ingredient space, Arjuna Natural details that “fatty fish, dark chocolate, bananas, oats, berries, coffee, fermented foods, ashwagandha and turmeric hold functional compounds that are considered as mood-enhancing ingredients.”
“However, much of these are not always enjoyed, opening an opportunity for product concepts that could be introduced to the consumer in new, innovative and relishing formats,” says Antony.
The company adds that turmeric has always been a good option due to its anti-inflammatory trait that helps improve mental health and mood.
“Ashwagandha is gaining market interest, especially in the mood space,” says Antony. “Known as an adaptogen that manages stress, reduces anxiety and provides refreshing sleep to rejuvenate mind and body, ashwagandha is making its way in various attractive formats that are gaining momentum.”
Consumer groups prioritizing mental health
Regarding the consumer groups interested in mood ingredients, Arjuna Natural details that stress is a topic looming large across the segments of consumers who are workers in a competitive workspace, creative thinkers and artists looking for mental, psychological health and emotional well-being.
“Blue California details that going forward from the COVID-19 pandemic, health-conscious consumers prioritize improving mental health and sleep quality,” says Tetzlaf.
“Consumers recognize the importance of holistic health and realize that poor sleep and mental well-being are interlinked and not only impact energy levels and moods but also can directly impact immune health.”
When asked in a 2020 survey, more than 60% of consumers globally said they plan to make improvements to their immunity in the next twelve months. In the same survey, more than 50% across major continents agreed to prioritize mental health, he explains.
Blue California’s Tetzlaf adds: “As the notion of holistic health has proposed that all aspects of wellness are interrelated, the health categories of cognition, gut health and sleep support are gaining traction.”
“Consumer market pulls to seek functional beverages with nootropics, postbiotics and adaptogens have become popular in recent years. Brands are responding by giving beverages a nutritional edge to help consumers achieve their wellness goals,” he continues.
“Consumers aware of the link between healthy guts and brain health and mood are emerging,” says van Es. “More people become aware of the importance of healthy gut flora (microbiome) and its impact on health, including mental health.”
Challenges surrounding formulations
According to Arjuna Natural, the basic challenge within mood ingredient regulations remains with the fact that there is no fixed global consensus on the categorization of products ranging from natural health products, complementary medicines or food supplements or dietary supplements, that vary from country to country.
The company adds that new delivery formats like gummies, drink mixes and bars are gradually capturing market share from capsules and tablets.
“This has posed a challenge to product developers to formulate recipes with the right dosages without affecting the sensory aspects of the product,” says Antony.
“We hope the science behind ingredients that contribute to health, including mental health, will lead to more options to explain and reach consumers (through health labeling or additional EFSA claims, for instance),” van Es adds.
By Nicole Kerr
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