There’s a well-documented relationship between what we eat and how we feel. And many CPG brands have built successful sales strategies on promoting the physical health benefits of consuming their products. But what about mental health? 

With global stress levels at an all-time high, consumers are looking for ways to fuel cognitive function through consumption; a new take on the concept of mindful eating. And nootropics are at the forefront of this movement. 

But what exactly are nootropics? And how are brands using interest in brain-boosting foods to develop new products? 

Let’s explore…

What are nootropics? 

Nootropic is a broad term for products that enhance memory or other cognitive functions. Some natural nootropics – like coffee and tea – are part of everyday life already. Other ingredients that have nootropic properties include herbs and herbal extracts (i.e. St John’s Wort) and mushrooms (such as reishi mushrooms).

The nootropic concept is also being explored in dietary supplements through the use of vitamins and minerals like magnesium, synthetic drugs such as piracetam, and semi-synthetic compounds made from natural sources.

While nootropics themselves aren’t new, brands are increasingly using the brain-boosting power of certain ingredients and additives in their product marketing. And growth in the mindful food and supplements sector is encouraging them to tailor recipes in new and innovative ways. 

However, as the term nootropic is being used as a beneficial claim then (as with all product marketing) food advertising regulations apply.

Why are consumers so interested in nootropic foods and supplements? 

The pandemic and other global events have taken their toll on people’s mental health, with burnout levels doubling in the last six months of 2021. As a result, many adults are looking for new ways to focus their attention and improve concentration. 

There are also distinct use cases for nootropic products. For example, Baby Boomers are looking to maintain brain function as they age, as scientific studies have shown that they are at higher risk of dementia than previous generations due to lifestyle factors such as inactivity and social isolation. 

Meanwhile, Generation Z places a high priority on mental health and wellbeing and are keen to invest in resources for mindfulness and self-care. Twice as many young people practise meditation compared to Baby Boomers, and a significant proportion want to get better at managing stress.  

It’s also worth noting that consumers of all ages are interested in natural alternatives to medication. Of course, a qualified health professional should always be the first port of call for mental health concerns and treatment plans. However, many people use nootropic products to counteract general feelings of brain fog.  

How are brands incorporating nootropic ingredients into their products? 

With interest in nootropics rising, many CPG brands are developing new ranges – even entire companies – around mindful benefits. And this is giving consumers more choice. 

One of the most popular formats is natural nootropic supplements, and there are already companies promoting products with brain-boosting properties:  

 

  • Neat Nutrition – the wellness brand founded by former GB swimmers Lee Forster and Charlie Turner has launched a Focus + Energy Nootropic containing cordyceps, ginseng and rhodiola rosea, plus a Sleep + Relax Nootropic featuring chamomile and ashwagandha

  • Vite Naturals – the Vite Brain range is developed around the premise of helping consumers to think, focus and feel at their best, including a mental performance supplement containing omega-3 and seven nootropic ingredients
  • Pink Cloud Beauty Co – the drinkable vitamin company has created a FOCUS supplement that incorporates ginkgo biloba, zinc and choline

Another popular nootropic format is drinks:  

  • Bulletproof Coffee – one of the original keto recipes, Bulletproof recommends combining the natural nootropic properties of caffeinated coffee with MCT oil sourced from coconuts to enhance cognitive function 
  • London Nootropics – this unusual coffee range utilises ingredients including mushrooms, ginseng, ashwagandha and CBD, and recently caught the attention of investors on BBC’s Dragon’s Den 
  • No1 Botanicals – a scientific study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology has shown that drinking No1 Rosemary Water can boost cognitive function and memory performance by up to 15% 

Even snack brands are embracing the mindful food movement: Xite Nootropic Bars contain a blend of choline, iodine, panax ginseng, bacopa monnieri, lions mane mushrooms and zinc.

Are there compliance challenges to producing nootropic products? 

While there’s a clear commercial opportunity for creating natural nootropic products, CPG brands exploring this space need to tread carefully.

Any product designed to positively impact the body or mind needs to be supported by compliant, substantiated product claims. The scientific benefits of brain-boosting ingredients must be proven and promoted correctly. Otherwise, brands leave themselves vulnerable to mislabelling penalties and even accusations of fraud.

There are regulatory limitations surrounding nootropic ingredients that might make production compositions non-compliant – for example:

  • Some seemingly innocent ingredients like herbs and herbal extracts have been used as therapies, which means regulators may classify these substances as medicines. This limits the sale of products containing these ingredients to over the counter or prescription only. 
  • Certain nootropics ingredients are banned in some markets – for example, ephedra is a stimulant herb, however dietary supplements containing ephedrine alkaloids (a stimulant compound found in ephedra) have been banned in the USA since 2004.

CPG brands that want to capitalise on the mindful movement need to understand and factor industry legislation into their product development, packaging and marketing strategies to build trusted consumer relationships. 

To simply, safely launch industry-compliant nootropic products, food and dietary supplement brands can benefit from the knowledge of a specialist regulatory agency like Hooley Brown. 

Working with a regulatory agency can accelerate time-to-market, as industry experts will check formulations against current legislation, suggesting reformulation options where needed. They can also create a product development roadmap for different markets – providing the same clarity and focus to brands’ NPD and marketing strategies that nootropic products provide to consumers. 

For support with developing compliant products and packaging in emerging and fast-growing sectors like nootropics, get in touch with Hooley Brown

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