Cognitive and mental health has been emerging as a major trend in the healthy food sector. The umbrella category covers products aimed at several facets and demographics - from children's development and concentration to adult stress to retaining mental capacity in old age.
Data drawn from Mintel's Global New Products Database showed an increase in supplement products aimed at mental health in recent times. In 1996 five product lines were entered, and the most abundant year was 2003 with 48 entries. In 2005 there were 26 new entries logged.
At the same time, the industry is investing in research to underscore the efficacy of its products and build credibility. While the risks of certain conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, can be measured using medical procedures, cognitive health is harder to ascertain.
In this context, CogState's psychological testing methods, which use visual stimuli that are randomised in nature and timing, offer an alternative to more subjective assessment measures such as self-reporting and patient interviews.
According to the company, its tests have already been used in 30 clinical trials by pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and functional food companies - and the patent is a line of defence against competing technologies that may seek a slice of the same lucrative market.
Fifty peer-reviewed publications are said to include data from CogState tests.
The newly-awarded patent also covers apparatus used in the tests, as well as CogState's approach to cross-cultural and non-language specific testing.
CogState also holds an Australian patent, which was issued in April 2005. Omega-3 is one of the main ingredients garnering interest for mental health. But certain other ingredients also crop up time and again. These include gingko biloba and ginseng (linked to improved memory); soy lecithin; CoQ10 (reported to help slow the progression of Parkinson's disease); and St John's wort (recognised as combating depression). Data source: Mintel's Global New Products Database