In today’s fast-paced world, the demand for staying focused, alert and mentally sharp has never been higher. Consumers are increasingly turning to functional beverages that strive to enhance their cognitive abilities and promote brain health. According to data from Euromonitor, the US functional beverage market—currently valued at $48.4 billion—is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 6.6% between 2020 and 2025. A driving force behind this growth is the rise of nootropics, natural ingredients that support cognitive function such as caffeine, L-theanine, ginkgo biloba and lion’s mane mushrooms.
Jamba Dunn, founder and CEO of functional beverage brand Rowdy Mermaid, highlighted the modern need for mental clarity, saying, “Modern lifestyles often involve high levels of stress, fast-paced work environments, and demanding cognitive tasks. Many individuals are looking for solutions to help them stay alert and focused throughout the day.”
This sentiment is echoed by Sierra Hooshiari, founder of New Age Drinks – BrainPOP Drink, who explained that the recent awakening in society has been in the realm of mental health. “The trend towards brain health and brain nutrition is something that was kind of the next logical step from where we were before,” she added.
What’s driving this nootropic revolution in functional beverages? It’s a combination of factors, according to Rocco LaVista, co-founder of Beverage USA, the parent company of nootropic energy drink brand Nerd Focus: “Firstly, heightened awareness of cognitive health and well-being has driven consumers to seek innovative and effective ways to enhance focus and mental clarity. Secondly, a growing interest in natural and functional ingredients has prompted beverage manufacturers to incorporate nootropics into their product offerings, responding to the demand for healthier alternatives. Thirdly, as research into nootropics advances, consumers are gaining confidence in their safety and efficacy.”
New Hope Network’s assessment of the functional food and beverage market found that brain and cognitive health are in the top 10 health concerns consumers are actively trying to manage and improve through functional food and drinks that contain nootropic ingredients.
One key ingredient leading the charge in the world of nootropics is lion’s mane mushrooms. The fungi are believed to stimulate the production of nerve growth factor in the brain, supporting the growth and maintenance of nerve cells. Dunn said that Rowdy Mermaid’s “mission is centered on providing sustainably sourced functional plant medicine to consumers, and lion’s mane aligns seamlessly with this objective.”
Rowdy Mermaid developed the Roaring Pineapple kombucha variety to emphasize the benefits of lion’s mane and showcase the potential for mental clarity through its packaging. Dunn explained that the company believed that lion’s mane was being underutilized in the category due to its cognitive advantages and could blend well with a delicious kombucha flavor.
Nerd Focus, on the other hand, utilizes a blend of ingredients including Huperzine-A, Alpha-GPC, Ginkgo Biloba, DMAE, and GABA to create a beverage that offers mental clarity, stress relief, enhanced cognitive abilities and memory retention.
“Nootropics are designed to support overall brain health and cognitive performance, making them valuable for individuals seeking an edge in their daily activities,” said LaVista.
The role of minerals, such as magnesium and Vitamin D, should not be underestimated. These elements are often included in functional beverages to support overall brain health. As Hooshiari highlights, BrainPOP Drink includes a combination of clean caffeine, minerals, and vitamins, providing consumers with a comprehensive approach to brain health.
“I really wanted to demystify and break down that barrier to what a nootropic is,” she said. “And I’m hoping that BrainPOP kind of does that in a very gentle and subtle way.”
Education is key
Education plays a crucial role in this burgeoning industry. As Dunn states, beverage companies are likely to invest more in clinical research to validate the effectiveness and safety of their products as the market expands. With increased consumer awareness, the industry anticipates a shift towards more informed and discerning choices. LaVista emphasizes the importance of education in helping consumers make informed decisions about what they consume, by providing detailed information about the ingredients used, their mechanisms of action, and the research supporting their efficacy.
Hooshiari emphasizes that nootropics can be seen as a path to better health, stating, “It’s this elite erudite kind of word. But really, anything that’s brain enhancing is something that’s like moving you in the direction of health.”
The use of nootropic ingredients and their integration into functional beverages is changing the way we view cognitive enhancement, and products that support mental health and cognitive function will only continue to grow.
“The field of nootropics is in a state of constant evolution, with researchers exploring new compounds and ingredients for cognitive enhancement,” said Dunn. “Emerging options are drawing attention. These emerging nootropics signal a dynamic and promising future for cognitive enhancement.”
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