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Sebastian Krawiec is Editor at Nutritional Outlook.
More consumers and marketers are tackling the interplay between these two critical need states.
We can all use a boost. Lack of sleep, stress at work, having a social life; it all adds up to create exhaustion that makes us rely on substances like coffee or energy drinks to keep us moving throughout the day. Ironically, those things combined can also add up to a restless night’s sleep. As a result, consumers are turning to dietary supplements in the hopes of finding a healthy way to sustain their energy and get a decent night’s sleep.
According to the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s 2019 Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements, “energy” is the second most cited reason that a whopping 32% of supplement users take dietary supplements. What does that look like age-wise? The majority of supplement users (42%) who cite energy support as a reason they take supplements are between the age of 18 and 34, but consumers between the age of 35 and 54 still make up 35% of those who seek out energy products.
According to market researcher Innova Market Insights, food and beverage launches, including supplements, with energy and alertness claims grew 20%, globally, between 2014 and 2018. Sports nutrition is among the top market categories whose food and beverage launches are making energy and alertness claims, representing 38% of the global share of launches in 2018. Not only that, sports nutrition is also among the fastest growing categories, with food and beverage launches of products with energy and alertness claims growing 40% since 2014.
According to market researcher SPINS, during the 52 weeks ending October 6, 2019, energy support was one of the mainstream retail channel’s three bestselling ingredient categories, earning $803 million. Some of the bestselling energy-support ingredients in that channel overlap with sports nutrition, such as protein and creatine, whose sales grew 61.8% and 11.6% over the previous year, respectively. One of the most prominent sources of energy for the everyday consumer is caffeine. According to SPINS, in the mainstream channel, sales of caffeine grew 14.7% over the previous year, to $109 million.
While energy is important, consumers are also looking for balance. They are drawing distinctions between physical energy and mental energy, and understanding that superficial ideas of energy aren’t enough to get them through their workday or even a workout. In May of 2019, the World Health Organization classified “burnout” as an occupational phenomenon. It defined it as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: 1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, 2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job, and 3) reduced professional efficacy.”1
Concerns about burnout open up the energy category to new ingredients that complement energy ingredients. For example, dietary supplement ingredients classified as nootropics, which are meant to support cognition and focus, can be marketed in sports nutrition to improve workout performance and longevity. Nootropics, such as those found in the NOOstart product from ThinkNOO, are marketed to complement your morning cup of coffee. One of its active ingredients, L-theanine, is known to reduce the side effects associated with caffeine such as the jitters, for example. By taking a capsule 30 minutes prior to one’s morning coffee, consumers can expect their bodies to more efficiently process the caffeine they consume, the company says.
“[Coffee] is the most consumed beverage after water,” says Shannon O’Brien, founder and CEO of ThinkNOO. “There are these unspoken side effects of coffee that people don’t often think about. The jitters, the crash in the afternoon, and what people don’t often realize is that coffee does actually have a much slower breakdown cycle for how long it takes to get out of the body, especially if you’re topping up multiple times a day with any kind of caffeine. So, what we then looked at was how do you level out that energy throughout the day so people have more sustained healthy energy rather than turning to cup after cup after cup, which led us to a range of different nutrients.”
The connection between energy and focus is extending into the gaming space, where e-sport athletes play hours of video games, requiring focus and fast reaction times. Traditionally, energy drinks have been a big part of gaming culture, but ingredients like L-theanine and MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides), which also help the body process caffeine, open the door to healthier options.
“We’ve been speaking to a bunch of e-sports teams, and they’re really looking into this with scientific rigor,” says O’Brien. “Especially when you’re playing reactionary games that require a lot of precision, within 45 minutes of having caffeine, you are actually ineffective, worse than baseline. So, it’s at about the 45 minutes to an hour mark that you are out of your peak.”
The flipside of energy is sleep, and what we consume to keep ourselves alert during the day can have consequences for how well we sleep at night. Natural sleep aids provide a potential solution. According to SPINS, during the 52 weeks ending October 6, 2019, in the mainstream retail channel, the sleep category earned $389.8 million, growing 24.3% since the previous year. In the natural category, sleep sales grew 11.2% to $29 million. One of the bestselling ingredients in the category is melatonin, which grew in sales by 10.2% in the natural channel to $11 million, and by 26.4% in the mainstream channel to $322 million.
ThinkNOO keeps the consumer’s desire for restful sleep in mind with its NOOreset product, which aims to counteract the ill effects of caffeine consumption and to replenish the body of nutrients lost during the day.
“The main ingredient we have in there is rutaecarpine, which is a plant extract that has really positive initial research showing it can assist with the production of key enzymes that break down caffeine,” explains O’Brien. “On the flip side of that is that caffeine causes the absorption of a lot of nutrients of which we’ve looked to target and really replenish so that you get a more restful sleep and end up feeling better.”
These products are an example of how the mindset around energy is shifting, taking on a more holistic approach that acknowledges the importance of the mind in our overall physical health.