Mental health awareness spurs nutraceutical innovation as consumers battle pandemic stress and anxiety
16 Feb 2023 --- Nutrition companies are targeting mental health solutions like never before. Mental health was long seen as taboo in some regions, but the COVID-19 pandemic has helped push mental well-being into the spotlight and open up opportunities for ingredient suppliers to combat stress, anxiety and depression with solutions that tap into emerging research into the gut-brain axis.
Notably, the World Health Organization (WHO) has increasingly turned its attention to mental well-being. In 2019, it launched the WHO Special Initiative for Mental Health (2019-2023) to ensure access to quality and affordable care for mental health conditions in 12 priority countries.
WHO has also committed to making mental health a main area of focus through its Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2030, which was updated in 2021 and extended to 2030. This plan targets mental health as a global challenge and strives to promote well-being, prevent mental disorders and provide care and recovery resources.
NutritionInsight speaks with Beatrice Minin, mood and cognitive health market manager at Gnosis by Lesaffre, and Marshall Fong, senior global marketing manager for Active Living at Fonterra, about the ways in which nutraceuticals can support mental health.
Mood, stress and anxiety
According to Fong, the aspects of mental health that are currently garnering the most attention worldwide are mood, stress and anxiety. Fonterra conducted a CARAVAN survey in May 2022 among a nationally-representative sample of 1,000+ US adults and found that 37% of respondents were concerned about mood or stress.
“A key factor in our cognitive health is the high concentration of phospholipids in the brain providing structure for cell membranes. As we age, the level of phospholipids in the brain starts to decline,” says Fong.
However, he notes that this decline can potentially be improved through the supplementation of dietary phospholipids, which have been clinically shown to help manage the effects of stress.
“The market is currently flooded with ineffective solutions for mood improvement,” he continues. “Although there are 30+ FDA-approved antidepressants and a few dietary ingredients shown in clinical trials to help improve mood, they don’t work for everybody or can come with undesirable side effects.”
“The key to quality is clinical evidence that shows an ingredient will provide the benefit that it claims to and ongoing research that continues to prove its efficacy.”
Fonterra aims to achieve ongoing quality assurance through Nutiani Health & Wellness Solutions. Its Nutiani Phospholipids have been clinically shown to help manage the effects of stress while also improving mood and focus. The versatile ingredient can be used in snack bars and ready-to-mix beverages.
Meanwhile, Gnosis’ Adonat Premium SAMe boasts “outstanding” mood-enhancing properties without the undesirable side effects of most common antidepressant drugs. The company is expanding its production capacity to meet the market’s rising demand.
“We live in a fast-paced, highly demanding society. Consumers have discovered the importance of adopting a holistic health approach, where physical, mental and spiritual dimensions are combined to achieve a sense of well-being,” says Minin.
“Therefore, consumers are keen on investing in products that can help them prioritize the virtuous cycle of positive mood, stress reduction and better sleep, influencing one another in a positive way.”
According to Innova Market Insights, the most frequent claims in supplement launches in 2021/22 were immunity health (33%) followed by brain-mood health (25%). The fastest-growing claim in supplement launches is mental acuity (81%), ahead of insomnia (54%) (2017-2022).
The gut-brain axis
Scientific studies are increasingly linking food and beverage consumption to mood and evidence is emerging around potential new interventions for depressed mood.
“After the realization that the gut represents a significant part of the immune system, research is now showing that many aspects of health may be related to the strength and composition of gut bacteria and that probiotics are an obvious way to influence that,” explains Fong.
Fonterra’s probiotic strain Nutiani HN001 has shown promise in many different areas of health, including mood, and does not differ from the placebo in terms of safety.
“We have launched the second phase of a joint initiative known as ‘Project Happy’ in 2022. This phase is a six-week randomized clinical trial with Sun Genomics designed to validate findings from the brand’s first consumer pilot study, which tested our Nutiani HN001 strain with 52 Floré customers to determine if there were any significant improvements in mental wellness and happiness,” says Fong.
“After 60 days of consuming a probiotic formulation and rating their psychological well-being on the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire, participants’ mean happiness score increased.”
Meanwhile, Fonterra’s ThinkSharp ingredient bundle – found in its BioKodeLab supplement brand – is made up of essential B group vitamins and phosphatidylserine from both dairy and soy, which combined help support brain and nervous system function.
The company’s CARAVAN survey found that 18% of current probiotic users in the US are taking probiotics to address mood or stress concerns and that an additional 65% of those who do have mood or stress concerns are open to taking probiotics.
Working with nature
The global trend toward greater planetary health is also impacting the mental health market as more stringent greenhouse gas and waste reduction targets come into play. Consumers are increasingly looking to support brands that make meaningful commitments, including more sustainable packaging, manufacturing and sourcing of eco-friendly ingredients.
“It’s no longer only about physical health or being fit or fashionable,” says Minin. “Climate emergency, the pandemic, inflation and world geopolitical crisis have profoundly changed our world, re-centering consumers’ priorities on the importance of being healthy, inclusive and balanced. They have fostered consumers to adopt positive lifestyles that can benefit society and the world.”
Gnosis by Lesaffre, through its portfolio of branded and science-back ingredients, harnesses the power of microorganisms to transform compounds into usable nutritional actives, probiotics and nutritional yeasts that benefit human well-being through a natural and sustainable process.
Meanwhile, one of the most notable ways that Fonterra has tapped into the natural and vegan trend is through its probiotic strains: Nutiani HN001 and Nutiani HN019.
“These strains were originally discovered in the context of our dairy business and first commercialized using dairy products. As the probiotic supplement business developed, more and more customers adopted dairy-free and vegan positionings and we responded by making dairy-free and vegan versions of HN001 and HN019. Today, these are the best-selling of our different variants,” shares Fong.
We recently took a deep dive into supplements, exploring the category’s primary drivers, innovation focuses and how brands can excel in an increasingly competitive landscape.
The pandemic has been uniquely difficult for younger generations, namely Generation Z and Millennials. Minin highlights that limited social interaction along with school and university closures, job losses and lay-offs, has hit this demographic hard.
“Younger consumers are concerned about their overall financial, social and economic well-being. They live with uncertainty about their job and overall quality of life in the next decade,” she says.
These concerns have encouraged younger consumers toward fast and effective supplement solutions, like shopping conveniently from their smartphones, which has spurred new demand within e-commerce.
“E-commerce supplement brands benefit from the subscription model thanks to the ‘subscribe and save’ model and from fruitful customer data, allowing them to better engage with the audience, especially through social media, and create targeted content along the customer journey,” adds Minin.
Gnosis’ Adonat Premium SAMe is produced through a natural fermentation process. Through its portfolio of branded and science-back ingredients, the brand harnesses the power of microorganisms to transform compounds into usable nutritional actives, probiotics and nutritional yeasts that benefit human well-being through a natural and sustainable process.
By Joshua Poole
To contact our editorial team please email us at email@example.com
Subscribe now to receive the latest news directly into your inbox.