The quest to achieve optimal health through diet is ongoing, and it has consumers reaching for obscure foods that provide benefits beyond basic nutrition. The wellness space is teeming with botanical ingredients that tout functional health effects from prolonged use – many of which may have you wondering, “what on earth is that?” Consumer interest in holistic wellness has increased significantly, and ancient eating systems like Ayurveda are being revived. In just the last year, there has been a 23% increase in consumers looking for wellbeing functions in their food and drink! As plant medicine grows in popularity, so does the influx of curious ingredients being brought to the forefront of mainstream food. It’s reminiscent of the “superfood” craze, but instead of vague nutrient-rich foods promising the answer to all of your problems, these are foods that directly target a range of common ailments. With the rapid expansion of the wellness movement, bigger companies are jumping on board with traditional remedies that offer benefits spanning from mood management to improved gut health. We’re doing a deep dive into which functional benefits consumers are seeking, and how food and bev producers are rising to the occasion.

What’s your function?

 

😎  Mood Enhancement

In a fast-paced world rife with anxiety, lots of consumers are looking for ways to cut down on stress. Plant based remedies have been shown to offer some relief. If you’ve been wondering why things like ashwagandha and reishi are having a bit of a moment right now, the name of the game is adaptogens. Adaptogenic herbs and plants can help the body adapt to stress. Cannabidiol (CBD) on the other hand, has reached household name status. This legal, non-psychoactive compound is derived from hemp and is known to help alleviate pain and reduce anxiety.

 

✨ Aging & Beauty

A killer beauty routine starts from the inside. Consuming collagen as a supplement  promises glowing skin, lustrous hair, strong nails and healthy joints. Collagen is a protein made up of amino-acids, and helps form the connective tissue for bodily structures like bones, ligaments, tendons and skin. This beneficial protein is most commonly derived from animals, but there are plant based versions available as well.

 

💩 Gut Health

New information about how influential your gut biome is to the rest of your bodily functions has urged consumers to incorporate more “good bacteria” into their diets. Eating food that promotes good gut health can help with digestion, immunity and weight maintenance. Fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha are easy go-to’s for good bacteria and we’re seeing them continue to rise in popularity. Probiotics are also taking center stage – while they’re found naturally in yogurt and kefir, more products like juices, shots and bars are expanding the category.

 

💪 Anti-inflammatory

Inflammation naturally occurs as the body’s immune response to heal injuries, but for many it can evolve into a chronic condition. Chronic inflammation is painful, but can be partially managed with diet. Certain foods exacerbate the painful symptoms of inflammation, but ingredients like elderberry, turmeric and maqui berry have been shown to assist the immune system in reducing inflammation.

 

💡 Cognitive Function

The biohacking movement is a practice of observing one’s own biology in hopes of achieving optimal performance. More consumers are passing on pharmaceuticals and caffeine and opting for new solutions to enhance high-level brain functions like memory and decision-making. Omega-3 rich foods like fatty fish remain a reliable standby, but lesser known nootropics are gaining traction. These “smart drugs” are a category of supplements that range from maca to L-theanine, and generally work to boost your brain power.

 

The line-up

 

Pact

Food giant Tyson Foods recently debuted their answer to the functional food demand, in the form of a protein snack. Pact Snack Bites are refrigerated and are sold in four SKUs that individually showcase pre and probiotics, collagen, matcha and omega-3.


 

Kindroot

These lozenges give the consumer an opportunity to “reset” with a lineup of plant ingredient options for different purposes: glowing skin, sleep aid, balanced mood or mental clarity.


 

Mighty Gum

A gum that works overtime, freshening your breath and delivering a combination of vitamins and adaptogens to help boost your mood and your immunity. 


Four Sigmatic

Coffee, while is a mainstay in modern culture, is known to induce stress. So balancing it out with adaptogens like tulsi and ashwagandha can help you reap all the benefits of the caffeine buzz, while maintaining a calm and at ease attitude.


 

Dram Apothecary

This lineup of craft sparkling waters enhanced with CBD and adaptogenic ingredients are the perfect refreshment for helping the body adapt to daily stressors. Colorado beverage darling Dram Apothecary is on the fast track to fame after a recent partnership with MillerCoors to distribute their CBD sparkling water on a wider scale.


 

Purely Elizabeth

Your collagen production decreases as you age, leading to wrinkles, arthritis and muscle depreciation. Luckily, there are simple options for getting some collagen in daily, like these protein-packed oatmeal cups powered with grass-fed bovine collagen.


 

Vital Proteins

Vital Proteins specializes in traditional powdered collagen and protein supplements, but one of their more innovative products is collagen water. The flavored drinks have low sugar, and 10mg of collagen protein making for an easy drinking option any time.


Moon Juice

The Cosmic Gold turmeric latte is designed for stress relief. The drink mix includes adaptogens to balance mood, vegan collagen, and turmeric to support a healthy inflammatory response.


 

Koios

The after-lunch slump can be combated with ready to drink beverages including a combination of plant extracts that promote focus, mental clarity, productivity, memory, creativity and energy.


Mud Wtr

This coffee alternative is made from organic ingredients and aims to deliver natural energy minus the less desirable side effects that can come with caffeine. A combination of adaptogenic plants, cacao, chai and spices provides energy and mood enhancement, with just 1/7th the amount of caffeine that coffee has.


Good Hemp 

CBD is a versatile ingredient, and we’re seeing it EVERYWHERE. For instance, this barista seed milk made for perfectly frothy lattes, includes a serving of CBD to add to your morning coffee and start your day off on the right foot.


 

Good Culture

Probiotics take center stage of this product’s messaging, but upon closer inspection the individual SKUs reveal additional functional benefits. The kefir shots are enhanced with ingredients like matcha, turmeric, collagen, and chaga to deliver nutrition packed in a small shot.

 



While no ingredient offers a catch all health solution, the use of natural remedies to target specific ailments is part of an ongoing shift back to a simpler, more naturally processed food system. The implications that small dietary adjustments can be made in order to become one’s “best self” heavily drive this movement. The lasting power of this trend will be determined with time, but for now, it’s a key component of the overall “back to nature” movement in the food and beverage industry.