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Developing, marketing evidence-based brain health products

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While the cognitive health category is ripe for product launches, understanding formulation and go-to-market strategy is critical for market success.

Consumers are increasingly turning to natural solutions to support their general health and well-being; the breadth of issues they are addressing is broad, and ranges from immune support and digestive health into mental and cognitive function. While this opens whitespace market opportunity, particularly given the impact of the ‘new normal’ around work/life balance and stress management, it can be difficult to develop an effective path to market.

Vitafoods Insights spoke with Nigel Pollard, Prof Andrew Scholey and Professor Con Stough, partners in Metavate, about the market opportunity, and the considerations when developing evidence-based brain health products. Together with Dr. Denise Hamblin from consultancy KANTAR, Metavate is hosting two two-hour online workshops on 18 May (Europe/Asia) and 24 May (United States); information about the session is now available online. {Editor’s Note: Receive a 20% discount by using the discount code VITAFOODS.}

Q. Consumer target markets seem to be shifting for the brain health category; what are some of the changes in this space?

A. With the increased focus on natural products for brain health, further enhanced by the COVID-19 pandemic, better differentiated products are needed to achieve cut-through. 

Q. Can you speak further to how these changes in societal values to a ‘rebellion’ society will impact natural health products?

A. Rebellion is defined by the desire to take control and find a better way. For products, these will often be scientifically based, personalised and truly effective for the health benefits we seek. As such, this represents a stunning opportunity for natural health products if developed and substantiated with Rebellion values in mind.

Q. What are some of the considerations when looking at ingredients—and their science—when developing a unique brain health formulation?

A.  There are several considerations. The first is what evidence already exists linking an ingredient to a brain health function such as cognition. The historical use is a good starting point but we will also want to see controlled trials and even in vitro and animal research where appropriate. The second and perhaps the most important consideration is the pharmacology of an ingredient-what does the research indicate in terms of how it impacts brain function. Does it have direct neurotransmitter effects, increase blood flow, change inflammatory markers, improve cardiovascular function etc? There are dozens of known mechanisms that are important in improving brain health and marrying these with the effects of ingredients is essential in developing new products. The only way to do this successfully is to keep abreast of new research in neuroscience.

Q. How can the best science be used to develop claims for brain health for natural health products?

A. It is important to understand what evidence can be used to support claims. For structure-function claims at least one, and preferably two, randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are needed. These clinical trials should be conducted on the specific product for which claims are made and adhere to Good Clinical Practice standards. Specific claims in the brain health space also require a deep understanding of cognitive domains, aspects of mood, how they are measured, and which ones are sensitive to manipulation by natural health products. Mechanistic studies supporting the RCTs can greatly help in identifying plausible physiological targets of change.    

Q. What can be done to sustain premium pricing for a brain health product?

A. To achieve a sustainable competitive advantage, brand owners are needing to work harder on their product differentiation. A part of moving away from a risk of being commoditized, companies are looking to enhance the scientific evidence for their products, together with differentiation of their specific product.

In addition to the online workshops, Metavate and KANTAR have developed an eBook, The Brain Health Market Opportunity and How to Realise It.

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