COVID-19 shifts the focus in supplementation

It was inevitable that the global pandemic would affect the way consumers think about their physical health, but perhaps less anticipated was the impact that lockdowns, social isolation and fears for the future also had on mental wellbeing.

A new Innova Market Insights report on trends in dietary supplements shows how the category has responded to these twin demands: not only has there been greater emphasis on immune health, but the market has also seen increased NPD in products that promote sleep, relaxation and emotional balance.

Within supplements NPD, immune health is the single most important claim, with more than one-third of all new products now delivering a type of immune benefit. Brain/mood health claims have moved into second place, however, ahead of energy/stamina and digestive/liver health. While introductions of all supplements rose at a CAGR of 33% over 2017-2021, insomnia products outpaced this, up at a CAGR of 74%, with more general brain/mood health products rising at 48% per annum.

The rise of mental health supplements coincides with the rise of plant-based ingredients and the range of active botanicals in use continues to diversify. Ingredients that have particularly witnessed significant growth in the past 5 years include CBD/hemp, which is popular for promoting sleep and relieving anxiety and depression, various mushrooms, which are valued for a multitude of benefits including immune and heart health as well as reductions in fatigue and anxiety, and ashwagandha, an adaptogen that can also alleviate stress and anxiety. Ashwagandha is used in Kynd’s new Stress Relief supplement, launched in Australia in 2021, with on-pack claims that this herb has traditionally been used in ayurvedic medicine to decrease symptoms of mild anxiety.

Botanicals for mental health
Botanicals for mental health: Kynd Stress Relief Ashwagandha 6000+ (Australia, Dec 2021); Probiotics for mood: Genuine Health Advanced Gut Health: Mood Probiotic Supplement (Canada, Jun 2021); Taste and efficacy in gummy formats: Resilient Remedies Calm CBD Supplement: Blueberry Pomegranate (United States, Apr 2022)

Another ingredient category that is seeing a shift towards mental health positioning is probiotics. Already established as gut health ingredients, the broader role of probiotics is becoming more widely understood and exploited. For example, the association between gut and immune health is a particularly strong message that is being reinforced in a COVID world. At the same time, mental health positioning is again relevant, with greater understanding of the gut-brain axis leading some probiotic products to make direct claims about their role in brain health. In Canada, Genuine Health offers a range of Advanced Gut Health supplements, with a recent addition being positioned specifically for Mood.

Another aspect of mental health supplementation for the future will be an increased focus on younger consumers. Gummy formats are particularly important among this age group and some suppliers are already using flavored versions to enhance youth appeal. For example, US company Resilient Remedies has launched a Calm CBD gummy supplement this year, combining an on-trend blueberry pomegranate flavor with its mental health profile and modern image. Although functionality remains key in this market, delivering a taste experience alongside efficacy could well add value to a new generation of customers.

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