Better than “Better-For-You”
For years, the “health and wellness” movement has been influencing restaurant menus and grocery aisles. Many more product lines are looking to join the ‘with added health benefits’ club, and by creating a nutritional product (or one with a health halo) with the addition of adaptogens, they can do just that. Especially with the worldwide concern over one’s health and the pandemic, people are looking to their food and drink for an extra edge. Adaptogens may be just what people are looking for.
Adaptogens are a natural substance derived from plants. They reputedly help the body adapt to stress, minimize damage caused by stress, and exert a normalizing effect upon bodily processes. A mere decade ago, barely anyone had heard of them. But now they are a hot topic.
But What Are They?
In truth, adaptogens are not new. They have been around for centuries, primarily in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines. Adaptogens are certain kinds of herbs, roots, and mushrooms that are being added to food and drink and touted as being beneficial to health. Scientists and doctors alike have been studying them for some years now, and medical studies are showing potential positive health effects.
The food and beverage industry has taken note of this, and now adaptogens are trending. In fact, one particular adaptogen became an ingredient to watch in both 2020 and beyond: ashwagandha. This Ayurvedic herb has been growing in sales over the past few years. According to an article in the American Botanical Council’s journal HerbalGram, sales of ashwagandha grew significantly. It was reported to have been the 7th best-selling herbal supplement in 2018, with sales growing 16.9% to $12.5 million. That’s quite a chunk of the natural market.
What to Do with Them
Many companies are taking notice and finding ways to utilize ashwagandha and other adaptogens. Kin Euphorics is one example. The brand is looking to sell non-alcoholic beverages that induce a sense of euphoria without the hangover—“All Bliss, No Booze,” claims their tagline. By using ingredients such as reishi mushrooms, passionflower, melatonin and l-theanine, and various botanicals (all adaptogens or their close cousins nootropics), Kin creates functional beverages with purported health benefits, such as:
- Dream Light: “help ease the mind into a state of rest, balance the body’s response to stress, and support… deep sleep well into the night”
- High Rhode: “help balance the body’s response to stress and refill our pleasure tanks for a blissful night ahead”
- Kin Spritz: “helps to mediate the “flight or fight” response that rules our daily existence… Once our bodies feel balanced, we don’t feel compelled to fight or flee. We can just be with the people around us.”
Kin recommends its drinks, called Euphorics, only for people 18 years of age or older. It is recommended for people who are not pregnant or breastfeeding, or people with certain medical conditions. Their other warnings are very reminiscent of the warnings against alcohol consumption, though their products contain no alcohol at all.
Adaptogens to Watch
According to Nutritional Outlook, a website by MJH LifeSciences, adaptogens to watch are ginseng, ashwagandha, tulsi (sometimes called Holy Basil), maca (also a superfruit), and mushrooms, particularly reishi mushrooms. Turmeric, an ingredient that has been trending for a while now, is also an adaptogen that is already seeing wide use in both food and beverages. Ilana Orlofsky, marketing manager for Imbibe, explains how companies are already using these ingredients in their beverage offerings. “Califa Farms has a Maca-‘Nilla almond milk. However, Rebbi built their brand around superfoods, with an emphasis on adaptogens,” she said in an article on FoodNavigator-USA.com. “Four Sigmatic specializes in beverages with mushrooms, and GT’s [Living Foods] recent launch of sparkling probiotic ciders incorporates adaptogenic mushrooms into their beverage blends.”
While marketing adaptogenic isn’t always easy—their taste profile can be tricky, in some cases. The ingredient remains projected to be here to stay. Gen Z is an audience that looks well-poised to enjoy adaptogens. They will undoubtedly increase social media mentions and spread word more effectively than even major media campaigns. Even the “big boys” are taking notice. Both Coca Cola and PepsiCo have been doing R&D for some time. They may well introduce their own wellness beverages in the coming months. Better-for-you ingredients are hitting the mainstream. Keep an eye on adaptogens in 2021!
Dawn Ferchak has been a writer and editor for more than 15 years. She received her BA in English Literature from William Paterson University and began her career straight out of college. Her areas of expertise include food, travel, hospitality, pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences, health and wellness, and the arts. She is a published poet and creative writer. In her spare time, she volunteers with animal rescue and rehabilitation organizations.