When describing her love for yoga, actress Julia Stiles is known to have said: “It slows me down. My brain and body can go into overdrive. Yoga teaches me to focus on the moment and not get ahead of myself.” Although Stiles has found a way to channel that overdrive to her benefit, many Americans are feeling the effects of an overworked brain and are searching for solutions to bring about more focus in their day-to-day life.

“Technology has sped up lives, putting the brain into overdrive,” says Maria Stanieich, marketing manager at Kyowa Hakko USA, New York. “Our schedules are busier, our task lists are longer, and our lives are on-the-go like never before ― we are asking a lot of our brains and of our cognitive health. Like the body’s other organs, the brain needs fuel to function at its best. This demand has highlighted how critical cognitive health and energy support products are in today’s consumer landscape.”

These high-gear lifestyles also have been associated with stress, which is a health concern for more and more consumers.

Laurentia Guesman, business manager at AIDP Inc., City of Industry, Calif., notes that in a recent NBJ survey, Gen Z and millennials are identifying stress and mood as their top health concerns.

“They also rank experiential and emotional measures as most important when evaluating their health,” Guesman says. “This combination is driving interest in products one can feel, but don’t have potential negative side effects like caffeine. As a result, there has been a shift in products launches in the cognitive health space to products that support stress and anxiety. 

“Likewise, highly caffeinated energy drinks are being replaced as consumers are seeking energy without the jitters,” she continues. “As an ingredient supplier, we are seeing strong growth in a wide range of mental health products.”

Micah Greenhill, marketing director of beverage and meat alternatives at Chicago-based ADM, echoes similar sentiments regarding consumers’ concern about their emotional well-being.

“Globally, high levels of uncertainty and turbulent living conditions are impacting consumers’ emotional well-being,” Greenhill says. “As a result, consumers are taking a step back from their daily pressures to reprioritize their approach to overall health and wellness. This includes looking for solutions that address their emotional wellness and can boost their energy levels, as well as improve cognitive focus.”

Citing ADM Outside Voice, Greenhill notes that 79% of global consumers take note of the positive impact that supporting one’s mental health has on overall health and wellness. The report also found that 84% of U.S. consumers identify mental and emotional well-being as just as important as physical well-being.

Additionally, Greenhill highlights that as part of FMCG Gurus “Top Ten Trends for 2023” report that “59% of North American consumers plan to improve their mental well-being while 54% plan to support their energy levels in the next 12 months.”

“This heightened focus on improving emotional wellness provides an opportunity for beverage brands to develop solutions that may support cognitive function, improve energy and mood, as well as support other overarching health and wellness needs,” he says. “With that, more consumers are turning to convenient and functional beverage solutions and formats like performance beverages, energy drinks, sparkling waters, juices and ready-to-drink (RTD) teas with ingredients like yerba mate, guayusa leaf and more.”


Buchi Living Energy
Buchi Living Energy combines the power of L-theanine, lion’s mane mushroom, clean caffeine and live and active cultures.
Image courtesy of Buchi Kombucha


Kyowa Hakko USA’s Stanieich notes the symbiotic relationship that energy and focus attributes have with beverage development.

“Energy and focus are top need states for consumers,” she says. “About a third of consumers are choosing beverages for an energy boost and a fifth are hoping to improve focus, according to Chicago-based Mintel.

“The research firm has identified key trends that will shape global food, drink, and foodservice industries from now until 2030,” Stanieich continues. “One is the concept of ‘smart diets,’ where technology enables consumers to construct hyper-individualized approaches to physical and mental health. With this comes the expectation of living longer and the need for a diet that supports long-term cognitive health.”

Targeted approach

Given consumers eagerness to view beverages as a solution to their cognitive and energy needs, experts highlight the different ways that beverage-makers are supporting these need states.

Carla Saunders, senior marketing manager for high-intensity sweeteners at Cargill, Wayzata, Minn., highlights that beverage-makers are turning to an array of solutions to support cognitive and energy enhancing products.

“Health and wellness trends are evident across the food and beverage landscape, and products targeting cognitive health and energy support are no exception,” she says. “Increasingly, we’re seeing drinks with enhanced functionality, as brands add vitamins, minerals, botanicals, adaptogens and more, all with the aim of broadening their product’s health credentials.”

Casey McCormick, senior vice president of global innovation at Sweegen, Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., also highlights adaptogens increasing popularity due to their ability to support the body when handling stress and bringing about physiological balance. Sweegen’s sister company, Blue California offers L-TeaActive L-theanine, an adaptogen that supports relaxation, focus, and aids in a healthy stress response by reducing cortisol levels, the stress hormone in the body, the company’s website notes.

“Blue California’s L-TeaActive L-theanine has increased usage as it can support focus combined with caffeine and promote staying on task, especially under high-stress conditions,” McCormick says. “L-TeaActive is produced using a proprietary non-GMO enzyme-assisted process and is water-soluble with no taste, color or odor, making it perfect for functional beverages.”

Further, adaptogens and nootropics have aligned well with an array of beverage categories, particularly in the ready-to-drink (RTD) sector, McCormick notes.

“Both adaptogens and nootropic functional ingredients are primarily formulated in RTD soft drinks, which include energy drinks, juices, and bottled water,” he says. “They offer the characteristics of hydration, indulgence, and fortification on the go. This is why they remain the most popular solutions for appealing to health-conscious consumers. Innova Market Insights states the soft drink category makes up the highest proportion of functional drinks, following dairy drinks, which are more focused on gut health.”

Kyowa Hakko USA’s Stanieich also notes the reasons why beverage-makers are fortifying with nootropics in new product development.

“Beverage-makers are recognizing nootropic ingredients like Cognizin as an opportunity to deliver cognitive health and energy support in their products to give consumers accessible, convenient functional nutrition that they can easily consume as part of their on-the-go lifestyles,” she says.

“People use nootropics for a variety of reasons. Younger consumers may be looking for improved focus and productivity,” Stanieich continues. “Weekend warriors and gamers want a mental edge to be more competitive. On-the-go working parents need help to juggle career, home and children without succumbing to stress-related mental burnout. Empty nesters and retirees are trying to defy cognitive and behavioral aging.”

With so many solutions that address cognitive health and energy support, suppliers are showcasing the efficacy of their solutions.

AIDP’s Guesman highlights evidence that the company’s Magtein, a magnesium L-threonate mineral compound, and its ability to support cognitive functions and brain health.

“A double-blind, placebo-controlled study demonstrated that Magtein significantly improved cognition in four areas: executive function, working memory, episodic memory, and attention at both six and 12 weeks,” she says. “This study was important for us to understand the day-to-day effects that are noticed and felt when supplementing with Magtein.

“Magtein’s unique chemical structure allows it to cross the blood brain barrier,” Guesman continues. “This ensures that Magtein is reaching the tissues that it’s specified for, and was validated through bioavailability and input/excretion testing. The unique ability to cross the blood brain barrier results in cognitive effects felt quickly with long lasting results. Magtein is FDA GRAS and was launched in its first RTD beverage in 2021.”

Citing a range of medical journals, Cargill’s Saunders highlights that documented research found the benefits of choline from gestation through advanced ages.

“On the cognitive health front, choline is backed by years of research highlighting its role in the normal development and function of the brain and nervous system ― yet most consumers don’t get enough,” she says. “The 2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report called out choline as a shortfall nutrient. It’s been positively correlated with cognitive performance on verbal and visual memory tasks, and when taken during pregnancy, show to enhance cognitive function in childhood, adulthood and into old age.”

Nature’s influence

As consumers prioritize their mental well-being, experts note that ingredients from nature have taken on greater significance.

David Tetzlaf, director of marketing at Blue California, Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., notes how interest in natural solutions have aided the fortification of adaptogens and nootropics into beverages.

“Many consumers also seek more natural ways to boost cognition via the foods and beverages they consume,” Tetzlaf says. “The explosion of adaptogens and nootropic-containing beverages on the shelf has made these ingredients staples to healthy lifestyles. 

“Furthermore, the no-alcohol trends have also given rise to more functional beverages that promise to boost mood and energy, combined with sophisticated flavor combinations” he continues, citing a BBC article titled “Why Gen Zers are growing up sober curious.” “Shelf space has given way to these new functional beverages to excite the ‘sober curious’ consumers.”

ADM’s Greenhill adds that label consciousness has exemplified the proactive approach that consumers are taking to incorporate natural energy and cognitive health ingredients in their lives.

“Today’s conscientious consumers frequently examine product labels for ingredients that they associate with ‘closer-to-nature’ attributes and sustainability,” Greenhill says. “This scrutiny has only increased, especially as consumers progressively shop based on their values, with many shoppers seeking out options that can benefit themselves, their communities and the planet.”

Greenhill adds that ADM is addressing this interest through its portfolio of botanical and tea extracts.

“Botanical ingredients, in particular, are a natural fit for this trend, as they have a perception of being closely tied to nature. They also align well with consumers’ search for cognitive and energy support, with just under 70% of consumers saying that the presence of botanicals in a beverage made them perceive it as better for them ― whether or not a health claim was actually made,” he says citing ADM Outside Voice.

Greenhill notes that guarana’s popularity in the energy and active nutrition space can be attributed to its high concentration of caffeine, aligning with stimulant energy and performance.

“In the coming years, we expect to see more beverage formulations using multiple botanicals associated with a variety of wellness attributes,” he says. “For example, an energy drink may include botanical ingredients such as yerba mate and cola nut paired with mango and finger lime to potentially target mental acuity while giving a refreshing tropical flavor profile.”