Trends experts at HMT (Health Marketing Team) have answered this question in their recently published Mental Wellbeing category report.
The report says “we have now entered the 3rd phase of health” as consumers’ interest in health shifts from their physical, to their mental health.
Peter Wennstrom, founder of the HMT, says this is “the gamechanger” for anyone working with food and health products and services, adding that “the value chain starts in the mind of the consumer – more so now than ever before.”
The report explains that one major influencing factor creating widespread concern over mental health was COVID-19, with depression rates tripling over the course of the first year of the pandemic (Boston University's 'The Lancet Regional Health' report).
And the climate crisis is another influencing factor. According to a global survey and peer-reviewed study led by Bath University (published in the Lancet Planetary Health), 75% of young people think the future is frightening and 45% say climate concern negatively impacts their day. And nearly 60% of young people approached said they felt very worried or extremely worried about the future..
The Covid effect
The pandemic initially created a huge buzz around immunity-focused products, but it wasn’t long before consumers became aware that the mind and body need to work together to make them feel well and balanced, says HMT. As such, consumers now put more focus on getting enough sleep, eating well and taking breaks so try to avoid stress.
This mind and body focus has catapulted microbiome modulating products as consumers realise these can not only boost the immune system through the gut but they can also help relieve stress, boost mood, and aid sleep. It has also created more interest in products with a ‘holistic health’ focus.
“The focus in 2022 and beyond is going to be synergistic food blends and their multiple health benefits with the immunity and mental support in the leading seat,” the report states, “by mixing ingredients, we can enhance the potential benefits and the bioavailability of different nutrients.”
The additional anxiety and stress that the pandemic has brought has also enabled brands to focus on “feel good and happy”
feeling communication through their products.
On the market:
HMT provides some examples of products on the market which are tapping into this trend.
The Nue Co, Rebalance, from the US, is a blend of pre- and probiotics created to "rebalance the microbiome to support the health of the entire body" - from brain function, weight, skin, immunity, digestion and mood.
Meanwhile, in the UK, Bio-Kult Mind is based on a blend of probiotics and flavonoids and is designed to target both
the digestive tract and cognitive function.
Sports nutrition- Performance
According to HMT, amateur and elite athletes are realising that mental health is just as important as physical health, and that having a clear and strong mind can support athletic performance.
"Many people now like to take a nootropic pre-workout tablet before gym to keep the mind sharp," it states, "a good recovery routine is also just as important."
Lumina Intelligence research, which analyses the top-ranking sports nutrition products online across 20 global markets, found that 24% of offerings claimed to improve energy, and 6% claimed to improve focus on labelling and packaging.
Again, gut microbiome modulators are winning in this category.
Fitbiomics , in the US, has created a "performance probiotic supplement" which claims to work by decoding elite microbiomes to "unlock optimal performance from immunology, protein & energy metabolism for strength and endurance, and to neurology for peak mental aptitude & toughness".
Meanwhile, in Australia, Pillar Performance has launched 'Ultra B Active Peak Performance' tablets. The activated B vitamin formulation has been developed to promote energy levels and relieve fatigue while also supporting healthy stress responses and nervous system.
From the elite athlete through to the weekend warrior, recovery has always been important as a good recovery process is crucial in order to stay on top of the game.
But this is more and more being approached by consumers in a holistic way with "clean" and "natural" ingredients and
physical and mental rest coming into focus.
As such, UK-based brand Innermost has created the Recover supplement offering a mix of nootropics & adaptogens to support muscle recovery, improve hormone activity to feel energised and enhancing the body’s natural ability to respond to physical and mental stress.
It's been impossible to miss the growing interest in 'self-care' routines and rituals as consumers look for simple ways to slow down and pamper their minds in order to stay calm and cope with daily stressors.
HMT says brands can cater to this need by providing products with a clear ritual attached.
One health benefit that many consumers are focusing on is sleep, and many are on the search for natural botanicals and other ingredients that promote relaxation and calm the mind in the evening.
HMT says the most popular ingredients in this space at the moment are: L-theanine, a naturally occurring amino acid; magnesium, which has been shown to increase melatonin levels; chamomile and lavender, botanicals well-known for aiding in relaxation; and casein protein and cherries that are rich in melatonin.
UK-based supplement brand Feel has catered to this trend with its 'Sleep' supplement filled with botanicals and minerals which are thought to help the mind to relax. This includes: Tryptophan, used by the body to make the compound 5-HTP, which then is converted into serotonin and melatonin; Glycine, an amino acid which is known for having a calming effect on the brain; plus magnesium, Rhodiola rosea, and more.
In order to successful market to consumers in this mindset, brands must tap into the 'consumer narrative' with their strategy, according to HMT.
For example, many consumers believe that what they buy says something about who they are, their morals, and their aspiration. Therefore brands must create a brand story that reflects positively on the consumer’s personality and lifestyle choices.
Some consumers aren't just looking for physical wellness, but they are looking essentially for happiness and emotional connections, meaning brands need to deliver on beliefs and emotional values.
For many consumers food bears emotional links to roots, traditions, memories, and comforts. Brands can leverage tradition, roots and
ancient beliefs by using ingredients or flavours which have a heritage story. This is where botanical ingredients with a long history of use in other countries have become increasingly popular.
As mentioned previously, rituals are a big part of how consumers look after their mental health. Brands therefore can benefit from selling rituals and experiences as opposed to just selling products.
HMT says: "Think about the story you want to tell and choose the right consumer narrative. Do you want to appeal to a consumer’s emotions? Or connect them with their roots and traditions? Or maybe sell a ritual and an experience and not just a product? All valid options but you need to be clear about it to choose the one that best resonates in your market."