Botanicals for cognitive health are booming

Demand for cognitive health and plant-based products is driving the botanicals market in Europe, reports Mike Hughes, Head of Research and Insight, FMCG Gurus

In 2019, FMCG Gurus interviewed more than 25,000 consumers in 25 countries about their attitudes to plant-based ingredients and botanicals. This article focuses on the feedback from 5000 respondents who were surveyed in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK in March 2019.

The opportunity for food and drink products based on botanicals is growing in Europe. Consumers demonstrate a particular interest in botanicals that are associated with aiding mental well-being. This can be attributed to the frantic nature of modern life, which is a key reason why the demand for products that help to aid relaxation and alleviate stress will continue to grow. However, the wider interest in botanicals can also be related to consumers wanting products that they deem to be “clean.”

Consumer interest in botanicals is growing. There are two key reasons for this. First, end users are taking a more proactive approach to health maintenance. Secondly, consumers want maximum reassurance that food and drink is natural and contains only real and authentic ingredients. In fact, our research found that 41% of consumers say plant-based ingredient claims are influential in terms of their food and drink buying behaviour.

Furthermore, when it comes to ingredients that consumers are most likely to be aware of, there are the ones most associated with relaxation and mood enhancement. This reflects how tired and fatigued consumers have an interest in products that help them relax and recover from the pressures of everyday life.

Across Europe, cognitive health problems continue to become more common. In 2019 for instance, FMCG Gurus research showed that a total of 42% of consumers say that they often have difficulty sleeping in the evening. Moreover, 60% of consumers say that they are interested in products that improve sleeping patterns and alleviate stress (62%). This shows that even if consumers do not feel that they are actively suffering from a problem, they are interested in products that improve aspects of their health.

Regarding products that are positioned around relaxation and mental well-being, consumers are particularly interested in yoghurt-type products and soft drinks, FMCG Gurus research shows. This is because consumers associate such products with having genuine nutritional value. These are the markets that the food and drink industry should be particularly aware of when it comes to the promotion of botanicals in product formulation.

The frantic nature of modern life means that consumers will continue to feel tired, stressed and fatigued. This, in turn, will continue to generate interest in products that address these issues … which means awareness and interest in botanicals will intensify. However, as stated earlier in the article, the demand for products formulated with botanicals can also be related to consumers taking an interest in clean-label style products.

Across Europe, consumers are taking more of an interest than ever before in the ingredients used in product formulation. This is because consumers believe that brands use deliberately confusing nutritional labelling to conceal certain ingredients. Related to this, consumers are concerned about the use of synthetics, chemicals and additives that they believe to be detrimental to their health.

FMCG Gurus research for instance, shows that 49% of European consumers say that they search product labels for ingredients they do not recognise.

Additionally, 58% say they are concerned about ingredients that “sound chemical” and 60% say they focus their shopping on buying products that are free from ingredients they are concerned about. The use of plant-based ingredients such as botanicals offers maximum reassurance to consumers that products contain only real and authentic ingredients.

The demand for botanicals will continue to grow across Europe. This can be attributed to mental well-being issues becoming more common and consumers being more interested in product formulation. As such, the industry needs to raise awareness about different botanicals and their related benefits.

Secondly, they need to ensure that health and nutritional claims made about botanicals are credible, transparent and not misleading. Finally, they need to target categories in which consumers are interested in botanical-containing products. If brands and manufacturers are able to do this, there will be significant scope to grow the botanicals market in the region.

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