Special edition: Brain health

Markets: Leaders in global brain food sales

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cognitive health Psychology Choline

In the first of a series of articles on cognitive health, NutraIngredients examines the global market for food and ingredients leading the category.

The cognitive health category is made up of foods, beverages or dietary supplements that help boost mental health, improve mental performance and uplift mood. More specific benefits include: Enhancing cognitive ability, protecting the brain from damage, fighting the effects of aging (such as memory loss or dementia), addressing depression, and concentration problems, aiding in relaxation, and even helping to reduce aggressive behavior.

“Despite the need for further research in this area, the cognitive functional category is set to become one of the hottest areas in the industry,”​ wrote market analyst Euromonitor International in a comment article last year.

Ingredients for brain health

Data pooled from market analysts including Euromonitor, Datamonitor and Frost & Sullivan identify a number of key ingredients in the category. These include but are not limited to the following ingredients, which often have multiple functions:

  • Omega-3, ginko biloba, ginseng (improved memory)
  • CoQ10 (slows Parkinson’s disease)
  • Phospolipids: Phosphatidyl choline and phosphatidyl serine – e.g. soy lecithin (fight dementia, cognitive decline)
  • St John’s wort, soy lecithin (combat depression)
  • Omega-3, PS (phosphatidylserine), Gaba, creatine (brain function)
  • Green tea, tryptophan, Gaba, ginko biloba (mood)
  • Guarana, caffeine, ginseng (energy boosting)

Increasing global sales

In 2007, Euromonitor estimated the global market for fish oils – one of the main sources of omega-3 – at $2bn, a 112 percent increase on 2002. Fish oil sales are predicted to reach $2.5bn by 2012.

Global sales of CoQ10 reached $772m in 2007, an increase of 180 percent since 2002. Sales of Ginseng reached $1.1bn in 2007, up from $644m in 2002, with Asia Pacific accounting for 66 percent of the global market. Sales of St John’s wort increased 11 percent from 2002 to reach $210m in 2007.

Ginko biloba recorded $663m in sales in 2007, an increase of 40 percent since 2002, and expected to reach $800m by 2012. Western Europe and Asia Pacific lead the market, with a 34 and 28 percent share respectively.

Supplements lead – but for how long?

According to Frost & Sullivan, dietary supplements are leading the way in the cognitive health market – and Euromonitor confirms that supplements are “increasingly garnering favor with consumers”.

However, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD), there have been no new launches of dietary supplements claiming to benefit the brain and nervous system in 2008 or 2009 to date.

In the food and beverage category, GNPD tracked 276 new cognitive health products launched globally in 2008, and 388 new products in 2009 to date. Europe and the US accounted for 45 and 56 new products respectively in 2008, and 44 each in 2009.

This compares to 15 products launched globally in 2003, with only 6 products launched in Europe and 2 in the US during that year.

Mintel’s statistics reveal that there have been more global food launches compared to beverage launches (200 vs. 76 respectively in 2008). However, Euromonitor says the market is currently focused on drinks.

“Leading beverage areas are teas and infusions, water-based drinks and energy drinks. In the dairy segment, omega-3 fortified yoghurts, milk and drinking yoghurts dominate,” ​it said.

“However, nearly all product categories have seen launches of products with mental function claims, including ice cream and confectionery (chocolate rich in omega-3 and B vitamins).”

Euromonitor splits the market up into three main areas: Brain function, energy boosting and mood.

Japan ahead

According to Euromonitor, Japan is “by far”​ the biggest market for brain food. Europe and Asia also offer good prospects, it said, but consumers are only interested in the products if they are based on scientific findings.

The US market is “further behind”,​ but consumers there are “becoming increasingly interested”.

The NutraIngredients cognitive health series examines the market, supply, science and regulation behind the category. For more articles in the series, click here​.

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