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Cognitive focus on the mind—podcast

Exploring the expanding cognition, nootropics and eGaming category opportunities.

When it comes to mental performance, everyone is looking for an edge. Cognitive support isn’t just for the ageing demographics, as interest in nootropics spans generations, from professionals tackling fast paced workplaces to younger demos involved in eGaming seeking a competitive edge. There are different nutritional ingredients with great synergies that have the ability to fuel unique formulations. In this podcast, sponsored by Prinova, you’ll hear more about:

  • Key drivers for the cognitive health industry
  • Consumer demographics including their preferences and health goals
  • Nutritional ingredients that support different aspects of focus and performance
  • The new opportunities in applications and new product development

Guest

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Tony Gay
Head of Technical Sales & NPD, Nutrition - Prinova

Tony has built up 20 years of experience within the sports and health supplements industry and has worked for a number of global brands including Natrol, Cytosport and the retailer GNC. Tony joined Prinova in 2013 and over the last 8 years has built out a technical sales division within the company. Tony’s role with Prinova includes management of specialist ingredients, NPD, sports nutrition, beverages and wellness blends plus technical support.


Sponsored by: 

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Vitafoods Insights Podcast

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Podcast transcript:

Vitafoods Insights 00:02
Hello and welcome. You've tuned into Vitafoods stories podcast series- the podcast that explores the latest insights and innovations, helping the global health and nutrition industry Connect, develop and progress. Today's host is Heather Granato, Vice President of content.

Heather 00:20
When it comes to mental performance, everyone is looking for an edge. Cognitive support isn't just for the ageing demographics anymore as interested in nootropic spans generations, from the management team tackling fast paced workplaces to younger demos involved in e-gaming, seeking a competitive edge. There are different nutritional ingredients with great synergies that can fuel unique formulations. I'm Heather Granato, and for this Vitafoods Insights podcast sponsored by Prinova, I spoke with Tony Gay, head of technical sales and new product development for nutrition with the company. He has more than 20 years of experience within the sports and health supplements industry, and now manages Prinova's specialty ingredients segment, extending into beverages, wellness blends and technical support. Certainly the place to start is understanding what is driving the growth of the cognitive health space.

Tony 01:10
What we've seen over the past couple of years is, first of all, a slight change in the way that energy drinks are so presented to the market. So, traditionally, energy drinks were just around caffeine stimulation. But now, we've seen that people are looking for not just that stimulation, but actually ways where the nutrition that they take in into the bodies is actually going to give them a bit more of a focus element to that. So we see the sort of segmentation of energy drinks coming into play here, where they contain nutrients, which also help with cognitive function, memory, focus, etc. And I think also with what we've seen in the lockdowns through COVID-19, it appears, you know, people are starting to take or play more online gaming as a pastime. And therefore, they looking for nutrients that will help them to focus more on that gaming outlet. So, it's kind of an interesting segment that's in developing over the last two years,

Heather 02:07
I think so. We've seen a lot of people, obviously, having a lot more screen time. So, focus in all sorts of areas, what would you say are the main consumer demographics, then that are interested in nutritional products for cognition?

Tony 02:22
Well, there's a couple of different areas really. First of all, is quite the youngest generation; maybe those that are sort of studying for exams, etc, or look for product is going to help them to focus mentally, but also those people that are playing sort of online games. And they can be quite wide in terms of the demographics for them, again, so the younger audience, but also going into middle age, as well, where, you know, you're trying to alleviate stress or, you know, times where you're in lockdown periods where you're going to be playing sort of online games, to take away that sort of stress or have a way of escaping that. And then cognitive also really sort of resonates with the older generation as well. So those type of products are going to be more for protection of memory, neurological function, etc. So there is an older demographic that also be looking for concept type products.

Heather 03:11
I think you're so right there. Certainly the older I get and the more I'm in front of screens, I find a real benefit in exploring these types of products that have interesting ingredients, that can support my own cognition and focus. So, when we're thinking about ingredients then, what do you see as the main ingredients that are being used in these formulations?

Tony 03:34
Well, I think you know, first of all, we look at the vitamins and minerals which have the EFSA related health claims. You know, particularly around reduction of tiredness, fatigue, maintenance, or sort of normal physiological function, protection of cells as well. So these are sort of vitamins like the Bs to a lot of the B complex will be contributing to energy, reduction of stress, tiredness, etc. But then also some of the minerals like iron, zinc, selenium, etc. The law these will be associated with cognitive type products too. As we move into sort of other ingredients, a lot of amino acids are now coming into play within the space. I mean, it's like acetyl-L tyrosine, acetyl-L carnitine, taurine, choline and also L-theanine is really driving sort of popularity, for reduction of stress, improved memory, etc. And L-theanine, particularly from green tea, so there is a natural source of L-theanine amino acid coming from green tea, and that is driving interest too. And when we look at sort of extracts, you'll also see a lot of the kind of more what you classify as adaptogens coming into this area, things like ashwaganda, very popular also within the space. Curcumin as well will come into play as well for these types of formulations. And they can be quite wide and the action that patients you'll find that these ingredients are going to.

Heather 04:58
Tell me a little bit more, what do you see as some of those key developing applications then for cognitive products?

Tony 05:06
I think traditionally, you would see cognitive type products being supplements. So the typical formats of tablets, capsules, etc. But really now they're moving into more convenient type options. So you will look at powder formulations you could make into a beverage, but also beverages themselves. So you will find cognitive type products coming into mainstream distribution in beverages. And they might be, as I said, a sort of segment from the energy drink market, but also looking at sort of other natural type products. So they might be smoothies, they might be, um, products will have superfoods in them, etc, which have associated sort of benefits in terms of cognitive support. And then gummies, we've seen a sort of development, particularly in the US in gummies, coming into sort of cognitive type products. And that's because for the older generation, it's quite convenient to consume the nutrients and gummies, but also for this kind of gaming market sort of becomes a snack, which is also providing them with cognitive benefits as well. So gummies, I think will be an interesting one in the future as well.

Heather 06:16
Well, I certainly think we've seen that already across the multivitamin market with so many consumers interested in consuming gummies. I think we've seen market research from several firms about the tremendous growth of that particular supplement format. But beverages, again, that on the go and possibly fueled by previous familiarity with the energy beverage segments. So, how do we make them a little bit healthier? a little bit more natural? So when you were talking about the demographics, it's interesting to think about natural ingredients really gaining popularity. So, how is that trend coming to life in this cognitive nutrition space?

Tony 06:59
I think definitely, if you look at energy drinks, specifically, you will see there's quite a drive towards looking at more natural options of ingredients. One such area is caffeine. So moving away from maybe the synthetic type of caffeine to a more natural source, which may be coming from, say, green coffee extract, or Khurana. And you'll see that into sort of the energy beverage space where they're using this much more now instead of a synthetic version. But you will see a lot more of the superfoods coming into this area. So things that are associated with being super foods, whether it's berries, extracts, whether it's greens, etc. So providing you sort of or natural energy from superfoods environment, and then these adaptogens, that kind of terminology, adaptogens, are becoming very popular within certain formulations. And those are the ashwaganda, the rhodiolas, ingredients, which are more of a balancing type of ingredients. So if you are taking any stimulants within a product, it helps to balance out the negative effects of that as well. And then green tea, green coffee, as I said before, gingerroot is also coming into the area. And then there's L-theanine coming from green tea, which I think is a really interesting development. But that's the the concept support.

Heather 08:16
Obviously, a lot of these ingredients, they have particular synergies, they work together, offset maybe that balance, but certainly they could also have challenges in terms of selecting the right application, making sure that you've got a formulation where it's going to taste good if it's a beverage or a gummy. I'd love if you could have a little bit of a comment about, you know, when you're looking at ingredients and formulations, how do you make sure that you're actually bringing that together in a way that's going to be appealing to a consumer?

Tony 08:47
Yeah, what we do see from a product development point of view is because there is quite a large toolkit now which can be used in a product formats. So there's the extracts, the amino acids, there's all the vitamins, etc. Sometimes you can over engineer a product where the flavour can be you know, seriously detrimental because you've got a lot extracts in there, you've got a lot of amino acids, which typically don't taste very good. So quite often you need to scale that back and really sort of isolate what's your target audience? So if it's more natural consumer, how do you look at the formulation to really target that natural consumer base, and if it's more about you know, memory, focus, and this younger demographic, which may not necessarily be interested in, um, in natural ingredients. You can go a slightly different direction and also with intensity of flavour. So a more younger demographic will be sort of more looking at intensity of flavour, rather than sort of the more natural consumer which is really softer, where you've got a difficulty in masking the product. So, it really depends on the target audience but as you sort of indicated, there is challenges to flavouring. But technology is improved a lot in this area, you know, there's a lot of good maskers, which are natural flavours, which really take off the sort of stringency of amino acids, caffeine etc, as well.

Heather 10:09
Right, and certainly underscores how important it is to be working with a partner in formulation who has some of that expertise to bring to the table. If we were to sum up, where do you see the biggest opportunity in terms of new product development in cognitive nutrition products?

Tony 10:26
I think the space that's going to be developing the most is e-gamer or eSports enthusiasts. You know, people do play a lot of games now, the development of this industry is really sort of become very large. They say it's going to be about 200 billion by 2021. And that's the whole industry, so people buying games, etc. And what you find is that these consumers are playing games, they're also having snacks, they're also having drinks, typically energy drinks, so they're already consuming products during the time they're playing games. Now it's just focus in on products, which are going to be much more suitable for that. So it could be the gummies, it could be the energy drink market, which is going to be centred on ingredients for focus, for mental agility, for neurological function, rather than just say, lots of caffeine, which indicated before. So these products will be a bit softer, and maybe the amount of caffeine they have, the more nutrients to help you to focus, keep a good memory, etc. So I think eSports enthusiasts or gamers, it's really sort of an interesting area to tap into. And there's a couple of brands already doing this: one in the US called G-Fuel, which is specifically a brand targeting gamers. And then also in the UK, there's another brand called Sneak. Similarly, their beverages, their powders, just targeting gamers. So all their marketing, everything they do is around the game of consumer.

Heather 11:50
Fantastic. Well, Tony, thank you so much for sharing your insights today. Any final thoughts you'd like to share with our audience?

Tony 11:59
Really, I mean, just get in touch with Prinova. You know, we've got a great team here that can support you in the next product development as it's across the board. So whether it's powder formulations, beverages, or gummies, we have a lot of tools in our toolkit which can help you to create your next new product,

Heather 12:16
Fueling innovation and a whole new category, I love it. Thank you again for joining me today.

Tony 12:21
Thank you very much Heather, it's a pleasure.

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