Could adaptogens become the next kombucha?
- Interest in adaptogens such as ashwagandha, maca and medicinal mushrooms is on the rise in beverages, according to Food Navigator. Adaptogens are plant extracts that purportedly deliver nutritional and functional benefits, such as helping the body resist the damaging effects of stress.
- The majority of product launches featuring adaptogens have been beverages. They’re easy to formulate, and American consumers are more willing to try new ingredients in beverages rather than foods.
- Marketing adaptogen-infused drinks may be challenging, as these ingredients and their health benefits are still unknown to many mainstream consumers.
Consumers continue to look for added nutritional value in their foods and beverages. Adaptogens, which claim to help the body better handle stress, are now the latest better-for-you ingredient trying to meet this growing demand.
Califia Farms is testing the market for adaptogens with their Maca-Nilla almond milk, which contains Maca Root. REBBL Elixirs launched its first products with adaptogens last year. GT’s Living Foods, known for its kombucha drinks, also has a line of sparkling apple probiotic ciders featuring adaptogenic mushrooms.
So far, one major player in the beverage space has introduced a product featuring adaptogens. Starbucks recently launched a latte with tumeric in London. In addition, Food Navigator reports that beverage giants Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are investing R&D in this area.
Some smaller players are building their entire brand around adapatogens, such as LA-based Immordl. They produce a triple-distilled, cold brewed arabica coffee formulated with three adaptogens: rhodiola, maca and guarana.
While not all of these beverage makers give specific examples of how the adaptogens can help consumers, Immordl does list the benefits of the ingredients in its Nitro Super Coffee Elixir on its website. It notes the organic maca was used by the Incans for energy and stamina in high elevations while its organic rhodiola rosea is an adaptogenic herb from a root used by the Vikings before going into battle. In addition, organic guarana was used by the Aztecs for energy before the hunt.
Immordl is careful to not say that consumers will get energy from maca or guarana, or feel like a Viking going into battle. This is a clever approach to informing consumers about the potential benefits of adaptogens without venturing into dangerous waters with the Federal Trade Commission.
While adaptogens are popping up more on beverage labels, the segment hasn’t exploded in terms of growth so far. Some of the greatest increases year-over-year for these ingredients have been with mushrooms. Maitaki grew 811%, according to SPINS, while the more recognizable licorice stayed relatively flat.
This niche product appears to have found a happy home in functional beverages and energy drinks. As it will be rather difficult and expensive to ever prove their health claims, it wouldn’t be surprising to see adaptogens remain a specialty ingredient as opposed to experiencing the meteoric rise of Kale.