Examining the factors behind the rapid rise of adaptogenic supplements
Adaptogenic supplements are on a tear, with sales of adaptogen-containing products surging worldwide since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Matthew Oster, senior industry manager of consumer health at Euromonitor International (UK), says global adaptogen sales jumped 10% in 2020 and 14% in 2021.
This growth has given rise to product innovation. Analysts say that adaptogens are still in their infancy and have much more room left to run. Forward-looking brands will find plenty of opportunities for new product development as they follow the trends driving the adaptogens market.
Consumers Prioritize Mental Wellbeing
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the global mental health crisis, creating a new source of stress for consumers. One December 2021 Suffolk University/USA Today phone survey of 1,000 registered voters across the United States found that 63% of Americans found the year 2021 to be some variation of “awful,” “confusing,” “crazy,” “depressing,” “a catastrophe,” “frightening,” “frustrating,” “challenging,” or “lackluster.” This survey also found that over 87% of Americans believe there is a mental health crisis in the United States.1 As consumers try to prioritize their mental health, the search for supportive natural ingredients is driving growth in the adaptogen market.
“In consumer surveys we’ve run, mental wellbeing has become the chief factor that consumers consider when answering the question, ‘What does being healthy mean to you?’, so it stands to reason that demand has gravitated from specific immunity functionalities to these mental health concerns,” Oster explains. “The rise of interest in mental health solutions, and adaptogens in particular, intuitively makes sense as consumers of all stripes are processing the trauma, dislocation, and insecurity that have become commonplace across cultures during COVID-19.”
Oster says there’s been a dramatic increase in formulations containing ashwagandha in the last few years. Ingredients like ginseng, passionflower, and valerian root are also on the rise. He notes that promising research around the gut-brain axis and the growing body of evidence supporting psychobiotics is also giving adaptogens a boost.
Consumers are increasingly looking not only to reduce stress and improve relaxation but also to relieve anxiety and prevent sleeplessness, says Sayantan Paul, senior food scientist for Spoonshot (St. Paul, MN). While ginseng dominates the adaptogens category, other ingredients like ginger, mushrooms, and licorice are also popular, Paul says.
“Mushrooms contain ergothioneine, an antioxidant that may protect against cell and tissue damage,” Paul explains. “Social media conversations show that 21% of the posts that mention adaptogens also mention mushrooms. Ashwagandha is also gaining huge traction in the food products space.”
Jitter-Free Energy Drinks in Demand
Adaptogens are increasingly finding their way into drink formulations, especially as consumers search for caffeine-free stimulants they can consume in a quick, convenient manner. Urban consumers, in particular, are increasingly stressed; incorporating adaptogens into mainstream beverage formats like teas and lattes is a way to deliver the functional benefits of adaptogens in a format consumers already know and love, Paul says.
“Ayurvedic botanicals like ashwagandha and turmeric continue to break into new frontiers in categories like beverages,” Paul notes. “Research on adaptogens is also focused on finding new ways of making ingredients more palatable without the use of flavors or masking agents.”
Spoonshot data shows that while supplements account for the largest portion of adaptogen product formats on the market, with 35% distribution, beverage formats like tea, coffee, and energy drinks are also quite popular. Drilling down, 23% of adaptogen products on the market come in the form of tea, and 7% of adaptogens are in the form of functional coffee. According to Spoonshot’s data, all beverage formats combined (tea, coffee, juice and smoothies, drink mixes, and energy drinks) account for 44% of the adaptogens market.
Opportunity for Combination Products
The adaptogens space is still relatively new, which means brands of all sizes have room to participate in this market. Adaptogens represent only about 1% of the American dietary supplement marketplace and 2% worldwide; therefore, most supplement consumers haven’t yet established preferences in this niche, Oster says. With consumer awareness still low, the adaptogens market is a blank slate for enterprising brands.
“Consumer interest in these products is quite dynamic and hasn’t yet settled on any particular brand, ingredient, or format,” Oster explains. “This has given the marketplace space to experiment, with considerable investment seen around emerging formats, from gummies to beverages to chews and jellies. This has also allowed enterprising formulators the opportunity to combine stress relief and relaxation functionalities with other, more recognized benefits like sleep, immunity, or digestion.”
Adaptogens Are an Evergreen Market
The adaptogens market is rapidly growing, with analysts expecting it to continue its momentum into 2023 and beyond. Consumers will continue prioritizing their mental health, which means the need for stress-relief supplements will not abate in the near future. As adaptogens become more mainstream, research-validated ingredients will hold strong appeal for a stressed-out, pandemic-addled consumer base.