Mind the Gap

Shot of a woman drinking a glass of water at home

Beverages and supplements that nourish and protect the mind as well as the body are poised for growth.

The pandemic sharpened consumer awareness of many aspects of their personal health, from immunity to emotional wellbeing, and triggered a fundamental shift in the way they manage their health. Consumers no longer view mental wellbeing and physical health as being independent of one another but as inextricably linked. Today, health is holistic and incorporates physical, mental, and social wellbeing.

Total wellbeing

Market research analysts have commentated extensively on this trend, which Mintel has termed “total wellbeing”. In its report, The Future of Nutrition, Health and Wellness: 2021[1], Mintel predicts that “in the near future, reeling from the impacts of Covid-19, there will be a push towards more holistic health” and that “nutrition will be used as the foundation for health, both mentally and physically”. Whilst physical health has long been a focus for food and beverage innovation, now the holistic health movement has pushed mental wellbeing into the spotlight. Drawing on market research and its own first-hand insights, Brenntag’s Food & Nutrition team has identified mental wellbeing as a key trend for the food and beverage industry going forwards.

The combination of a global network and local teams means we are uniquely placed to monitor market trends. We see mental wellbeing becoming increasingly important to consumers, and therefore increasingly important to our customers - food and beverage producers throughout the EMEA region,”notes Justyna Rynkiewicz, Project Manager in Brenntag’s Food & Nutrition team. She explains: “Although wellbeing was gaining momentum prior to 2020, the pandemic was the starting point for the holistic health movement. It was a very stressful time for people; they realised they had to think more about managing stress and anxiety and making sure they were getting quality sleep as well as strengthening their immune systems,” she says.

Homemade fermented kombucha tea curcuma flavor. Healthy natural drink with probiotic flavor.

Focused innovation

The crossover of physical health, mental wellbeing and emotional needs calls for a different approach to innovation. It has created demand for food and drink products that fuel mental wellbeing and acuity and tap into the self-care movement to support a more preventative health approach.“The main target audience for mental wellbeing products is working adults who have responsibilities - in particular younger adults who look to diet as a means of taking care of themselves,” notes Justyna. She says the main opportunities currently lie with supplements and beverages - particularly those in a RTD format as they are easy for consumers to incorporate into their diets and to consume on-the-go whilst making sure they are taking the correct dose to have the desired effect.

Personalised approach

In a space that is very much in its infancy, a blanket ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to product development is not going to cut it. Consumers want products that target the different highs and lows they encounter in daily life. This means there is huge scope in terms of positionings, from products that support quality sleep and mood that are designed to help people unwind in the evening. Therefore, a popular approach in this category is the creation of ‘families’ of four or five products that address different needs and usage occasions. These may use marketing terminology such as ‘cleanse’, ‘energise’, ‘vitality’, ’focus’ and ‘calm’. For example, earlier this year Brenntag created a family of prototype drinks that included a plant-based energy drink, a nootropic drink, and a physical & mental power drink to demonstrate this approach and inspire market innovation.

fresh juice

Keep in the clear

When developing products in the mental wellbeing space, Brenntag’s F&N Manager of Regulatory Affairs for the Benelux, Cédric Dupont, advises brand owners to exercise caution when using terms that could be construed as health claims. “As with every regulation, within food law there are grey zones. We would advise customers to stay out of the ‘grey zone’ as much as possible and focus on clear and robust claims that can be substantiated,”he says. Brenntag has compiled a detailed database of ingredients and their associated health claims that can be used on products marketed on a holistic health platform in compliance with EC Regulation 1924/2006. The company’s regulatory experts can advise clients on the nuances of health claims law, ensuring products carry the correct wording and contain the correct doses to ensure compliance. Examples of ingredients that can be used include melatonin (for a sleep benefit), panthothenic acid (for mental performance), thiamin (to maintain normal psychological function), vitamin B6 (for reducing tiredness and fatigue and supporting the nervous system) and vitamin B12 (for reducing tiredness and fatigue).

The complete picture

Of course, the ‘active’ ingredient complex is just one piece in a product jigsaw that might also include botanical extracts, flavourings, sweeteners and colours. All of these ‘building blocks must work in harmony, which requires expert application architecture.“Plant extracts and vitamins often carry unpleasant after tastes. One of the biggest challenges is masking theseoff notes,” notes Constanze Goschala, Application Specialist at Brenntag. Drawing on an extensive portfolio of sweeteners, flavours, colours and taste-masking agents, Brenntag’s application technologists are ideally placed to overcome such formulation challenges.

Female drinking water

Addressing cost and supply issues through product development

For many food and beverage manufacturers, rising input costs and ingredient supply issues have meant that NPD is having to take a back seat. Besides working with customers to bring to market new products on a holistic health platform, technologists at Brenntag’s Application & Development Centres are currently very busy reformulating existing products to reduce recipe cost and overcome supply outages. According to Constanze, whilst each product will require a tailored solution, there are certain keys that can be turned to optimise recipe costs. “We work with our customers to define the most cost-efficient combination of functional ingredients like vitamins, minerals and botanicals to carry the right health positioning without jeopardising the sensory properties of the products. Drawing on our very comprehensive product portfolio is what enables us to be successful in meeting customer needs.

Finding replacements for ingredients that are in short supply is a challenge from both an application and a sourcing point of view. Thanks to its leadership position in ingredient distribution and global network of suppliers, Brenntag is uniquely placed to react quickly to shortages, find new ingredient sources and test their suitability in its laboratories.

Keep calm and carry on

Looking ahead, whilst the threat of the pandemic has now subsided, it has been replaced by other stress-inducing pressures, which are likely to fuel future demand for wellbeing support.“The conflict in the Ukraine, inflation and mounting concern about climate change are all adding to people’s stress levels. All of these macro-environmental factors are creating demand for products that can help consumers to maintain their general health through mental wellbeing”says Justyna.

[1] https://www.mintel.com/future-of-nutrition-wellness

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