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Mental wellbeing key focus at Expo West

Mude Food and drinks
Innovations around cognitive focus and stress management abounded at Natural Products Expo West, the largest US showcase for natural and organic products.

Natural Products Expo West returned to Anaheim California for its first in-person experience since the event was cancelled on the eve of opening its doors in 2020. From 8 to 13 March, more than 55,000 members of the global natural products industry convened to network, connect, learn, and discover. Every aisle brought new plant-based products from meat substitutes to protein powders; hydration took center stage with waters for every need and electrolyte add-ins; and gummies continued their march through the supplement space. This piece, however, looks at what was one of the biggest trends—the focus on mental wellbeing.

Unsurprisingly, consumers are turning to natural solutions to address stress, sleep troubles, mental fog, anxiety and more. They’re coming in myriad formats, designed for on-the-go consumption or a treat just before bed.

Consider some of the functional beverages on display. The Naked Collective offered an array of sparkling beverages—all plant-based, of course—delivered in recyclable and compostable packaging. The Mude Chill version includes ashwagandha and chamomile with a mixed berry flavor, while the accompanying Mude Sleep is elderflower flavor and delivers valerian root and chamomile. Rowdy Mermaid, well known for its kombucha products, is extending its existing Adaptonic line of immunity tonic carbonated beverages into a new ‘clarity tonics’ line in flavors such as Mandarin Turmeric and Asian Pear Elderflower. Ü Relax went the shot route, with 4-oz. tonics featuring ingredients such as ashwagandha, lemon balm, L-theanine, kava and chamomile.

Recess has offered a carbonated beverage line with hemp extract and adaptogens, but now has extended that line into a ‘Mood’ formula that trades out the hemp for magnesium. Further, the company is branching out into the supplement space with powders that highlight magnesium L-threonate, passion flower, L-theanine, and electrolytes—available in tubs and stick packs. Powders are also the go-to for Sunwink, which is extending its line into stick-packs for on-the-go convenience; its Berry Calm is designed to ‘relax and reset’ with ashwagandha, reishi and lemon balm.

This isn’t to say regular supplement formats aren’t also on board. ONNIT offers two formulations in the brain space. New Mood is formulated for mood balance and serotonin production with a blend of valerian, chamomile, lemon balm and jujube, plus 5-HTP and L-tryptophan. And the company’s Alpha Brain combines B6, amino acids such as L-tyrosine and L-theanine, and a ‘focus blend’ that includes bacopa, Alpha GPC and clubmoss. Gaia Herbs was also in the ashwagandha club, offering ‘plant-powered stress support’ in a gummy format.

But as consumers are looking for different options to supplement their diet, the food category is playing along. Fx Chocolate developed a line of keto chocolate supplements that blend biodynamic cocoa with targeted health ingredients in a single serving square. Options include Dream with 5-HTP and melatonin; Exhale, which combines GABA and L-theanine; and Focus with ashwagandha. Mindright, positioned as Nutrition for Your Mind, currently offers a line of Good Mood Superfood bars with a Happy Brain Blend including ashwagandha, ginseng, cordyceps and MCT oil. Coming this summer, the company—which boasts investors including the Jonas brothers and musician Travis Barker—will extend the line into Energy Bites with coffee fruit extract, L-theanine and green tea caffeine; and three flavors of popped chips—Cinnamon Churro, Chili Lime, and Turmeric Ranch—that feature Focus Brain Blend with L-theanine, B vitamins, ginseng, and lion’s mane.

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