Active Nutrition Summit: How to innovate in cognitive health

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

Getty | suwadee sangsriruang
Getty | suwadee sangsriruang

Related tags Cognitive health Nootropic Brain health Memory Cognitive function Market active nutrition summit

The key drivers propelling interest in cognitive health supporting food and drink are plant-based nootropics, the gut-brain axis, and on-the-go delivery formats, according to expert insights set to be presented at the Active Nutrition Summit.

We’ve seen phytonutrients "going mainstream in 2023" with innovators focusing on improved extraction techniques and convenient formats, according to Dr Harini Venkataraman, associate research director at Lux Research.

The market analyst will provide a deep dive into this topic at NutraIngredients’ Active Nutrition Summit​, taking place in Amsterdam this October (9-11).

She will provide an overview of the main trends shaping this category, key consumer concerns, ingredients with scientific zest, regulatory challenges, the movers and shakers in this category, and the pitfalls that brand should avoid.

Speaking in advance of her on-stage appearance, Dr Venkataraman explains that most consumers looking for mind health benefits would like to get them through products that fit into their routine and are enjoyable to consume, whether it be with gummies or with drinks, it’s important to get that experience on point.

She points out PepsiCo’s previous foray into this space, the Driftwell drink launched in 2020, seemingly drifted into thin air which she suggests was due to the poor flavour profile of the drink.

She says: “The flavour was artificial and that, ultimately, is the most important thing to the consumer.”  

She notes that many nutrition companies have been entering this space, especially since 2020 when the pandemic sparked mass interest in mental health.

Thanks to the rise in industry interest, many ingredients in this space are enjoying a growing body of research to back their health benefits in this respect.

One such topic of research is the gut-brain axis, as Dr Venkataraman points out that investment and fascination is coming from both academic bodies and corporates, driving understanding of the bi-directional link.

Looking into some of the key botanicals in this space, she says ashwagandha tops the charts when it comes to the number of cognitive health focused studies conducted in 2022. A PubMed search reveals 170 on this ingredient.

This is closely followed by L-Carnitine, a less well-known ingredient, but with 140 publications last year.

With so many ingredients available to innovators, there is a wide array of companies entering the field, with a wide range of solutions with some riskier than others.

She explains low risk endeavours will involve the development of popular formats, such as beverages, with traditional ingredients with strong research backing and consumer awareness, such as chamomile, ginseng and B vitamins. 

Higher risk endeavours involve the use of more novel formats and ingredients, such as adaptogenic mushrooms and botanicals including L-theamine, bacopa monnieri, ginkgo biloba, holy basil, gotu kola, and lemon balm.

Active Nutrition Summit

Named the 'Sports & Active Nutrition Summit' in previous years, this annual conference has been given a new name and focus in order to stay in-tune with the fast-evolving category. This category is now supporting the health conscious mass market consumer to stay fit and healthy as well as supporting the performance goals of elite sport stars.

With that, the range of products and services on offer have expanded to encompass new and exciting health targets and these targets have underpinned the areas of focus at this year's conference - women's health, cognitive health, life-stages nutrition, and personalised nutrition.

Within this, we will delve into hormonal cycles, the gut-brain axis, menopause, AI, sarcopenia, botanicals, CBD, and wearables, to name just a few topics.

Dr Venkataraman will join the cognitive health pillar of the event. Other speakers in this part of the programme will include cognitive health nutrition researcher Professor Andrew Scholey, from Monash University in Australia. He will draw on three decades experience and over 100 clinical trials into the impact of nutrition on the brain, with insights into how cognition is measured and the biologically plausible targets which can be modified through 'nutra' interventions. 

Simon Church, Co-Founder of CBD Performance, will provide insights into the benefits of CBD for athletes' mental health and the challenges that come with selling in this space.

Finally, a panel discussion on the gut-brain axis will be joined by Ewa Hudson, Director of Insights at Lumina Intelligence, Sophie Medlin, Consultant Dietitian at CityDietitians, and Jonathan Scheiman, founder of FitBiomics. 

To download an agenda for the event and register to join, visit the website here.

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