“While challenges with mood, stress, anxiety, and sleep are not new ones, the amount of people suffering from these conditions continues to increase,” commented Elena Lécué, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Brevard, NC-based Gaia Herbs. She pointed to isolation due to long work days and commutes, over-attachment to technology and social media, and a disconnect from nature as having detrimental impacts on mental wellness and sleep. Even current events are contributing to stress, she said, citing a recent Pew Research Center poll that found nearly seven in 10 Americans feel overwhelmed by the amount of news they need to keep up with.
“This combination of more people feeling overwhelmed and dealing with mood, stress, anxiety, and sleep issues, along with access to more information and greater knowledge, is what is driving the overall wellness trend that we are seeing and the increase in people turning to natural, plant-based solutions,” suggested Ms. Lécué. “That is why according to SPINS data, these particular categories are experiencing double-digit rates of growth, and we do not expect this growth to slow down anytime soon.”
According to SPINS, within the U.S. Natural Channel (for the 52 weeks ending Aug. 12, 2018), products supporting mood experienced 11% year-over-year growth, while products for sleep experienced 20% growth.
A consumer push away from pharmaceutical solutions and their associated side effects is also driving interest in natural products targeting sleep and mood health, according to Brian Appell, marketing manager for OmniActive Health Technologies, Inc., Morristown, NJ. “The after effects like feeling drugged the next day or weight gain just aren’t worth the benefit,” said Mr. Appell. “This is where natural solutions, devices, and even mind-body techniques are finding favor with many consumers.”
A 2017 Gallup poll found eight in 10 Americans (44%) stated they frequently encountered daily stress in their lives. Age was a key factor in reporting, as was employment, and having a family. While older demographics were less likely to report being afflicted by stress, more than half of those 18-29 (54%) and those 30-49 (56%) said they experienced frequent stress. Gallup also found those who were employed full time (52%), those with children under 18 (58%), and those with salaries under $30,000 (51%) among the most stressed subgroups.
Stress management was the top health concern among consumers under 40, according to a 2017 study from HealthFocus International. Romain Thévenot, global category manager – wellness for Naturex Inc., South Hackensack, NJ, said this demonstrates the public is “seeking greater well-being and trying to find ways to have more energy and cope with a fast-paced environment.” He suggested consumers are actively looking for ways to incorporate alternative medicine and use natural solutions as part of their healthcare and nutritional plans.
In general, people are becoming more aware about the importance of maintaining and prioritizing their mental health, suggested Juliana Erickson, senior category marketing manager, Consumer Health & Nutrition, Lonza. She cited data from the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), which found 35% of U.S. consumers stated they would be very likely to use supplements to address stress, while 34% said they would use them for maintaining mood states. “This marks a substantial increase in interest in such supplements, with a 102% uplift in the number of consumers taking supplements to manage anxiety since 2009, as well as a 65% increase in the popularity of products addressing sleep disorders during the same period.”
Furthermore, consumers are more knowledgeable about the acute physical damage caused by long-term stress exposure. “If a person is subjected to repeated stress over an extended period, the body gradually loses its natural ability to cope,” explained Bruce Brown, MPH, MA, president of Natreon, New Brunswick, NJ. Numerous studies have demonstrated that unmanaged and prolonged stress can contribute to health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity, he said. “Stress triggers the brain to release the hormone cortisol in the bloodstream. Many consumers are aware of this connection and are looking for natural solutions to help manage stress long-term.”
Euromonitor International reported growing interest in dietary supplements targeting mood and relaxation, with these products reporting a CAGR of 11.5% from 2013-2018, and earning $139.6 million in 2018. In addition, Nutrition Business Journal’s (NBJ) 2017 Condition-Specific Report found supplement sales for mental health/mood and stress totaled $334 million in 2006 and skyrocketed to almost $600 million in sales by 2016.
No Sleep for the Weary
A 2015 survey from Gallup reported that 42% of American adults are getting less than seven hours of sleep on a typical night, which is the minimum recommended amount specified by the National Sleep Foundation for those aged 18 and older. Gallup also found that young adults who got eight hours of sleep were found to have significantly higher well-being scores as defined by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
“Studies show that sufficient sleep duration is essential to keeping a positive outlook on life, maintaining focus and mental acuity, and even keeping appetite in check,” explained Kelly Heim, senior director, scientific affairs at Atrium Innovations, Sudbury, MA. “The impact of circadian rhythms on cellular and systemic homeostasis has only recently entered mainstream medical discourse.
Mounting evidence shows that light/dark cycles and timing of food intake influence nearly every organ-system in the body, including the brain and cardiovascular system, and that these rhythms are altered by modern environments, digital devices, poor sleep hygiene, and late-night eating.” She added that sleep has been overlooked in preventive medicine historically, but predicted this will change as multidisciplinary research continues to highlight sleep as a pillar of long-term health.
Euromonitor International linked the rise in sales of over-the-counter sleep aids (4.4% CAGR from 2011-2016, reaching $2.2 billion globally in 2016) to “rising stress levels among consumers who point to demands from work and family as well as increased use of mobile devices as primary drivers of their sleeplessness.” The research firm highlighted growing interest in natural products, such as supplements based in herbal or traditional medicine, which earned a CAGR of 2.8% in 2016, with $1.1 billion in global sales.
Likewise, NBJ reported supplements for sleep totaled $198 million in 2006 and a decade later nearly tripled to $584 million.
Experts noted increased interest for natural products and dietary supplements supporting mood, stress, anxiety, and sleep particularly among the millennial population (ages 22-37, according to Pew Research).
“Consumers of all ages—especially millennials—want to thrive both mentally and physically with the products they purchase, and are willing to try solutions from other cultures,” said John Kathrein, ingredient coordinator, Applied Food Sciences, Austin, TX. He indicated this younger consumer base is utilizing natural remedies because of the perception that they are healthier, and potentially have fewer side effects than synthetic products or ingredients. “The natural origins of these supplements are easier to trust than synthetic because of their transparency.” He pointed to a recent survey from Trust Transparency Center, which indicated that adults in the U.S. overwhelmingly believe (83%) synthetic supplements should always be labeled as such.
Ms. Erickson of Lonza CH&N suggested more digitally-connected and hectic lifestyles make resting minds a struggle, particularly among younger demographics. “With people leading busier lives and getting more attached to their digital devices, it is becoming harder to ‘switch off’ and wind down,” she said. “Millennials are particularly susceptible to the pressures of leading on-the-go lifestyles and are looking for solutions to help manage their everyday stress levels.” To demonstrate this trend, Ms. Erickson pointed to NMI data which found significant growth in the number of millennials turning to supplements to manage mental health issues, including anxiety (74%), mood (69%), and stress (60%).
“Like the rest of the population, the millennial population is also feeling overwhelmed by the news and messages being delivered on a daily basis,” opined Ms. Lécué with Gaia Herbs. She also pointed to younger generations’ dependence on digital devices as a key culprit contributing to stress, which she said “gives them even more exposure to a constant stream of negative information.” Ms. Lécué also suggested younger consumers are subject to greater economic pressures, which adds to their stress levels and overall anxiety.
Atsushi Yamatsu, vice director, GABA brand manager, R&D department for Japan-based Pharma Foods International Co., Ltd. also indicated younger consumers were the prime audience for this market, singling out those in competitive jobs and students. He suggested these consumers are looking for dietary supplements targeting mental well-being. “Usually, these people are under a lot of stress; tight deadlines, spending a lot of time in front of the PC, meeting with clients and pressure for high productivity and performance. Not only does this have an impact on physical and emotional health, but it can also affect relationships and home life.”
Additionally, he suggested those ages 30-40 years old are the most affected by high levels of stress. He added, however, “we cannot ignore that young people also face a lot of stress daily; entrance exams for college and job hunting also bring a lot of stress to youngsters. These people are the most interested in dietary supplements that support mental health.”
To meet demand for natural products supporting mood and rest, a wide range of finished products now feature unique formulations and diverse delivery formats.
Gaia Herb’s Mood Uplift is a synergistic blend of oats, passionflower, St. John’s wort, and blue vervain that supports healthy nervous system function for deep mood support, according to the company. Schisandra, ginkgo, gotu kola, and rosemary complete the formula by addressing whole system support. “These herbs were selected as they have a long history of chasing away the blues and supporting the body and mind,” stated Ms. Lécué.
Discussing the formula’s key active ingredients, Ms. Lécué pointed to St. John’s wort, which she said “has been used by herbalists for hundreds of years to support the body in different ways. It was included in our Mood Uplift formula as an herb that promotes a healthy mood, mind, and sense of well-being.” In addition, Mood Uplift features passionflower, which she said “is traditionally relied upon for promoting relaxation while supporting occasional anxiousness, occasional nervousness, and sleep.” Oats round out the calming mix by soothing the nervous system. “The oats used in our formula are grown on the Gaia Herbs farm in Brevard, NC, and are harvested and processed within 24 hours to ensure we preserve the rich phytochemical profile.”
With the success of this initial offering, Gaia Herbs has added a new product to its portfolio targeting mood and calm. The company most recently debuted Calm A.S.A.P., which is “formulated with a combination of passionflower, skullcap, chamomile, and lavender and was developed to rapidly deliver a sense of calm and peace during stressful moments in life,” explained Ms. Lécué.
Ms. Heim with Atrium Innovations pointed to several formulas from the company’s Pure Encapsulations line of dietary supplements.
Perhaps one of the most popular ingredients supporting sleep is melatonin. Pure Encapsulations offers Melatonin SR, which provides a sustained-release profile using MicroActive technology, a patented delivery system that has been successfully applied to other clinically tested sustained-release ingredients. “In a human pharmacokinetic study, MicroActive melatonin exhibited rapid uptake and prolonged presence in plasma, lasting up to six hours after a single dose.”
Melatonin, Ms. Heim explained, helps to support normal sleep/wake cycles through the circadian clocks and endocrine system. “However, with melatonin, more is not always better,” she cautioned. “Some individuals respond better to a lower dose than the standard 3 mg dose. We offer 0.5 mg capsules, as well as a liquid providing 2.5 mg.”
The Pure Encapsulations line also features Seditol, which provides a clinically researched combination of Magnolia officinalis and Ziziphus jujuba, to aid relaxation and sleep. “Seditol is particularly useful in reducing occasional tension and emotional stress,” said Ms. Heim.
The company also markets its herbal-based Best-Rest Formula, which promotes sleep onset and sleep quality with chamomile, passionflower, lemon balm, and hops, and is designed to calm and relax the central nervous system. Meanwhile, the company’s L-theanine supplement offers a calm mental state conducive to sleep onset, without causing drowsiness. “L-theanine is a unique amino acid that promotes relaxation within about 30-40 minutes after ingestion.”
For those who prefer alternatives to pills, the GlyMag-Z stick pack is a single-serving powder that contains a combination of magnesium and glycine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, to promote sleep onset and efficiency. Sleep Solution is a single-dose liquid that contains magnesium and glycine, along with L-theanine and melatonin. “These travel-friendly, single-serving options can be taken as needed to support relaxation and a restful sleep throughout the night.”
Som Sleep provides a ready-to-drink line of sleep supplements, including a zero-sugar formula, which was recently Non-GMO Project Verified. Designed to be consumed 30 minutes before bed, the functional beverage includes magnesium to aid in the natural production of melatonin; vitamin B6 to help regulate sleep patterns; L-theanine to promote relaxation; GABA to calm brain activity and promote relaxation; and melatonin to help users maintain a healthy sleep routine.
Harnessing the power of magnesium, the brand Natural Vitality offers the dietary supplement Natural Calm. The powdered formula, which is blended with water to create an effervescent drink, promotes healthy magnesium levels and balances calcium intake, which the company claimed helps users “feel less stressed and more relaxed.” It features a proprietary formula that provides a highly absorbable, water-soluble magnesium in ionic form (having molecular charge that allows the element to easily bond with water). Natural Calm is Certified R.A.W., Non-GMO Project Verified, and independently tested and approved by the Healthy Living Foundation to meet strict purity standards of California’s Prop 65.
Beekeeper’s Naturals, purveyors of naturally sourced superfoods, launched B.Chill – Raw Honey x Hemp, which the company said is a first-to-market product featuring 100% pure, sustainably sourced raw enzymatic honey, organic high potency hemp oil, and MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) oil.
“By creating synergy between honey, CBD [cannabidiol] hemp oil and MCT oil, we have built a radical product that can address anxiety and sleep in a family friendly, 100% natural, sustainably sourced product,” said Carly Stein, founder of Beekeeper’s Naturals.
The company said honey contains the relaxing, sleep-inducing amino acid tryptophan, which encourages the body to boost production of calming hormones like serotonin and melatonin. Taking a spoonful of honey before bed also supports good sleep by stabilizing liver glycogen levels, which is what the brain uses to power itself at night. The high potency hemp oil works with the body’s natural endocannabinoid system to promote internal balance and calm the sympathetic nervous systems, the company said, while brain-fueling MCT oil improves bioavailability and absorption of CBD.
Burgeoning interest in adaptogens—herbs and botanicals that exert a normalizing effect on bodily processes and have restorative properties that help the body adapt to stress—will propel growth in the category, according to Natreon’s Mr. Brown. “Adaptogens are gaining increasing attention as consumers seek natural alternatives for dealing with stress and anxiety.”
Ms. Lécué of Gaia Herbs also pointed to interest in adaptogens. “There has been a lot of media attention around adaptogens in recent years and more people are learning about the amazing abilities of adaptogenic herbs to help balance and restore the body especially in areas of mood, stress, anxiety, and sleep. This is a trend we expect to continue, as we do not feel that this category has reached its full potential as of yet.”
A continued consumer shift toward “holistic health” will influence the mood and sleep space, said Naturex’s Mr. Thévenot. Botanicals with history behind them, that are sustainably grown and sourced, will continue to send a compelling message to consumers, he suggested.
Mr. Thévenot also predicted unique scents, flavors, and delivery features will become distinguishing factors for the next wave of products. “By adding the sensory features of these botanicals into the mix, as aromas can help you relax too, formats that can deliver a sensory experience such as shots and functional drinks are definitely set to grow.”
With emerging science surrounding the gut/brain axis, combination formulas could also be promising for future formulas targeting mental wellness. Mr. Thévenot suggested products go beyond the nervous system “to address stress and the impact of the microbiome on stress related disorders. For example, we can foresee science-based probiotic and botanical combinations that improve digestive health, reduce inflammation, and hence alleviate stress.”
The evolving clean label trend is likely to remain a key driver in the category, suggested Lonza CH&N’s Ms. Erickson. “According to consumer insights from the NMI data, a quarter of all U.S. supplement users rate clean label as very important to their purchasing decision. As individuals become more conscious of labels and the products they are consuming, there is an opportunity to develop mood health and sleep support supplements that are in line with this trend.”