As consumers are looking to nutrition to address their health and fitness concerns, botanical ingredients and flavors are gaining the spotlight.
An Increasingly Botanical World
In recent years, Innova’s annual Top 10 Trends research has identified plant-based diets
as a strong direction for nutrition. Although this mainly focuses on the increasing popularity of veganism and the transition to meat and dairy alternatives, it also represents a broader movement towards plant-based products and an emphasis on the benefits of the natural world for health and nutrition.
Consumers adopt numerous approaches to healthy eating, but almost half approach their health by choosing natural foods with inherent nutrition or by opting for positive nutrition, including positively healthy foods rather than simply excluding undesirables. Botanicals play a role in each of these health systems, both as inherently healthy ingredients and as added functional actives.
Demand for Healthy Botanicals
Consumers are focusing on nutrition as a strategy to tackle their physical and mental health. They are purchasing functional food and beverage targeting health through hydration, gut health, better sleep, and boosting immunity. Innova’s research shows that many consumers accept active botanicals as functional ingredients, with clean label and naturalness closely allied to health. In consumers’ words, one in three consumers claim to buy supplements more than once a month. One in six consumers claim they take an herbal supplement and consider botanicals important in supplements that target specific conditions.
Consumers seem to perceive these categories are multifunctional, as they increasingly believe natural ingredients make for safer supplements and that botanical ingredients are effective.
Healthy Botanicals in Use
Botanicals are less likely to carry active health claims and slightly more likely to feature natural claims when used in food and beverage products. When botanical ingredients are used in brain supplements, the prevalence of brain health claims is higher than in supplements that do not use them. NPD growth data supports the idea that increased prevalence of brain-health supporting botanical supplements is concurrent with consumers’ increased focus on mental health. In fact, adaptogenic botanicals are among the fastest-growing ingredients in use, including ingredients such as specialty fungi, ginseng, ashwagandha, astragalus, bacopa, and gotu kola. Besides botanical alternatives, other established health ingredients are also on-trend. For example, the use of algae to deliver omega-3s or green coffee as a natural source of caffeine. Botanicals that support calmness and relaxation are also in greater demand to aid mental health.
Demand for Botanical Flavors
Consumer research shows that consumers often favor familiar flavors, yet many are still drawn to products possessing novelty, mood boosters, pleasure-promising, and excitement. Botanical tastes can create the opportunity to offer these characteristics by combining tradition and familiarity with unusual or unexpected notes.
Another aspect consumers rely on familiarity for is the association between fruit, vegetable, and herb flavors to health, while florals over-index on the association with calming and relaxing benefits. Additionally, mint and citrus flavors are associated with refreshment and spicy spices with stimulation.
Moving away from familiarity, beverages present themselves as an important area of experimentation for consumers, with demands for fruit and floral tastes in soft drinks and herbal or floral tastes in teas. Overall, consumers believe botanical flavors are healthy and sustainable.
Botanical Flavors in Use
Botanical flavors show the potential to support different aspects of a product, including novelty and variety as well as health, tradition, and naturalness. Core botanical flavors categories such as fruit and vegetables are underperforming the wider market, but in each case, there are still fast-growing individual tastes that stand out. The fastest-growing subcategory of botanical flavors are flowers, which have been particularly popular in beverages, promising to deliver both health and added value. Herbal flavors are also growing strongly and are being used in a similar way to add sophistication. Spices and seeds are also over-indexing the wider market and represent another component that can add value. This shift in focus on value is further evident in diversification and premiumization.
Going forward, botanicals will continue to contribute to the twin aspects of food and beverage development, especially in health and taste. Further opportunities for mental health ingredients lie in more holistic approaches to health. Therefore, adaptogenic plants are expected to maintain their strong growth trajectory. Simultaneously, botanical flavors will be used to support other active health ingredients, which can look like a probiotic yogurt with superfruit flavors. Flavor sophistication will be a significant focus for botanical ingredients in the future as consumers seek greater flavor variety to achieve more interesting and unique eating and drinking experiences.
This article is based on our Ingredient Insider report, “From Garden to Global: Navigating Future Growth & Innovations in Botanical Ingredients & Flavors.” If you are interested in reading our report, feel free to request a demo. You can do this by either booking a demo or using our Contact Form.