"People are ready to embrace dietary solutions to address wellness issues such as sleep, anxiety and mental focus. All of which are incredibly important right now", says Andrew Wardlaw, Chief Ideas Officer with consumer research and sensory science experts MMR Research Worldwide, with offices based in New York.
He was speaking as newly released data commissioned by MMR with Toluna indicated 39% Amercian consumers would consider food and beverage products with benefits to address with sleep issues. This was only marginally behind immunity (43%), which demonstrates how well-being is now as much about mental health as it is about physical health.
Data also shows that a third of Americans are willing to trial food and beverage products to address anxiety issues, and 31% for improving mental focus - figures on a par with gut health, which has been gaining a lot of traction in recent years.
"This really is the start of the next phase in functional foods, with the current pandemic accelerating demand for products that support our mental health needs in testing times."
A recent study by Accenture across 15 countries found that 2/3 of the world's population were anxious about their health, and 2/3 anxious about personal financial security. The study also revealed that 90% are worried about the economy. "With the narrative moving towards the economy, anxiety is not going to reduce anytime soon" adds Wardlaw. Devora Kestel, Director of the World Health Organisation Mental Health department said in May that "the mental health and well-being of whole societies have been severely impacted by this crisis and are a priority to be addressed urgently."
In a FREE web broadcast on Monday 8th June, MMR sensory scientists will be evaluating some of the early dietary products in this functional space, revealing if enough is being done via sensory cues to reassure the consumer of the product benefit at the moment of consumption.
"The market is awash with smaller players, but we think the category needs a big player to come in and add simplicity, accessibility and credibility to really get things going" suggests Wardlaw.
"We think this will be massive innovation opportunity going forward. Consumers are clearly telling us that they are ready to consider functional foods to support mental health, but we believe that winning products will go further than liking alone. They will unlock sensory power across pack and product configuration to deliver higher credibility. Developers have to ask themselves: 'have I done enough to ensure to help consumers really believe?'."
The broadcast, at 11.00 ET on Monday is open to marketing, insight and R&D professionals, and is designed to kick-start creative and commercial thinking. "With economic challenges ahead, this is a real opportunity to innovate in what will most likely be a recession proof demand space" Wardlaw concludes.