Kaavya Raveendran, market and consumer analyst at Innova Market Insights, gave a presentation at Fi Europe 2022 talking about trends and opportunities in functional ingredient innovation. In her talk, she identified gut health as a top concern for consumers worldwide.
Gut seen as ‘epicentre’ of holistic health
Consumers are putting gut health at the top of their wellbeing priority lists, Raveendran said, with 64% of respondents to Innova’s trend survey saying that gut health was “very” or “extremely” important to them.
“Gut health is one of the key health considerations among global consumers,” she added. “In fact, in 2022… consumers said that they place gut health at the epicentre of achieving holistic wellbeing.”
This is not only because of increasing awareness and education among the public but also because there are new products and biotics coming to the fore, she said.
Consumers prioritise products that target multiple body systems
There is growing recognition of the importance of gut health to other body systems, particularly in relation to the gut-immune-brain pathway, Raveendran said: 62% of consumers think immune health is influenced by gut health, 56% make a connection with mood, and 52% draw a link with mental health.
This is driving interest in interconnected health platforms, which Raveendran said were all something that “consumers are going to keenly observe and pick out from … offerings on the market shelves”.
In turn, this is pushing up interest in functional ingredients that can offer multiple benefits, such as minerals, nootropics, and botanicals.
“Functional ingredients are used to increase the health value of a product, and it goes beyond functionality to more health platforms,” she said.
Mental wellness is another key consumer demand, with consumers increasingly purchasing food and beverage products for improving mental focus, boosting brain health, and to destress and relax.
“I think they do expect food and beverages to fulfill this demand,” she added.
How does consumer familiarity affect uptake?
Raveendran talked about research into the perceived effectiveness of different functional ingredients that are associated with gut health, looking at the influence of familiarity on consumer choices.
Mainstream ingredients such as fibre, vitamins, and minerals score very highly on both familiarity and perceived effectiveness, while examples like postbiotics, CBD, and guarana may be less familiar, but perceived to be fairly effective – something Raveendran framed not as a limitation, but “an opportunity”.
She added: “This … highlights the need and demand from the side of consumers to be more aware, and to make a more informed choice when they're choosing these biotic ingredients for linked or interconnected benefits.”
Established vs emerging ingredients
Which ingredients should brands be considering when trying to target these diverse needs?
Apart from having good market penetration, the biotics category shows “immense growth in the future”, Raveendran said, with ingredients “coming full circle in terms of innovation”.
“This also is highlighted with the fact that many probiotic individualistic strains are also coming to the front and being labelled on the pack,” she said. “It's a nice way to really make consumers aware of what strains are going behind formulations.”
Looking at new product launches among vitamins and minerals, chromium, magnesium and manganese are coming to the fore, while vitamins K, B8, and B7 are also doing well, she said.
Raveendran highlighted botanicals as an area with a high level of innovation as besides their natural functionality, they are widely known and accepted by consumers. Ashwagandha and hemp are the “stars” of adaptogenic development, she added.
Looking to the future, some ingredients which are growing fast but are yet to expand to applications within the food and beverage category include active mushrooms, microalgae, and adaptogenic herbs, all of which are “showing immense growth”, she said.
“Ingredient functionality is definitely as important as it has been and even more so now,” Raveendran added. “And familiarity and trust are key factors where brands can really do their best to also make sure that they're all on the same page in terms of understanding the benefits of these ingredients.”
Main image: Ashwagandha functional drink, © iStock/eskymaks