From food and beverage to vitamins and nutrition, the focus on health and well-being has remained a top priority for consumers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This increased focus has risen in parallel with a greater consciousness amongst consumers, who now divulge in research of their own to understand what products to use and how to take better care of themselves.
As we’ve seen across industries, the consumer focus on health and well-being as well as functional ingredients and supplements is here to stay. Looking ahead, consumers will maintain this focus while prioritizing their stress levels and relaxation methods.
Trend Across Industries
In recent years, the food industry has seen more and more consumers seek out foods that are plant-based and sustainable, as well as immune-boosting and vitamin-rich. However, change is looming with the potential to deter this latest avenue of growth as recent plant-based meat sales have decreased significantly. Experts mainly attribute this drop in sales to harsh competition in the market, along with the fact that more and more consumers are eating out again. Looking ahead, only 20% of consumers state they will continue to seek out immune-boosting supplements and food after the pandemic ends.
Similarly, the vitamin and nutrition industry saw the sales of herbal and botanical supplements skyrocket as consumers took steps to boost immune health during the pandemic. Mushrooms, for example, have been shown to increase white blood cell stimulation, provide anti-inflammatory benefits, and act as a source of vitamin D. Mushroom-based supplements can come to fruition in the form of coffee and tea, also known as “resilience beverages.” Additionally, within the beverage industry, consumers sparked innovation in brands with their push for healthier drink options like these resilience beverages, along with kombucha, superfood shots, and meal replacements.
Across these three industries, we’ve seen the prioritization of health and well-being drive consumer purchasing habits. However, while plant-based, sustainable, and immune-boosting options still remain relevant, we’re seeing yet another shift in consumer habits due to the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumers maintain that their push for health and well-being, paired with increasing stress levels, has led to an increased desire for products to help with sleep and relaxation.
Health and Well-Being: Changing Consumer Focus
Although most consumers maintain a laser focus on their health and well-being, a recent study found that consumers are increasingly stressed about money concerns and the continuous pandemic. Notably, 50% of U.S. adults sought out relaxation and stress relief at the end of 2021. They’re now turning away from plant-based and sustainable products and, instead, turning to products that help with sleep, relaxation, stress relief, etc., like wellness teas and adaptogens.
Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world aside from water, and in 2021 alone, Americans consumed upwards of 85 billion servings of tea. This nearly calorie-free beverage contains no sodium, fat, carbonation, or sugar. Tea helps maintain fluid balance and good health amongst consumers with the help of flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties.
Various studies have dived into the positive impacts of tea on consumer health and well-being. Data proves that tea can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by almost 8-12%. Tea can reduce the overall possibility of cardiovascular events, along with slowing the progression of certain diseases, lowering Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and improving blood pressure. In addition to heart health, tea has been proven to aid in fighting certain cancers, neurological diseases, diabetes, weight gain, and more. Looking toward overall health and wellness, tea can help the body fight infection and disease by strengthening the immune system.
Vitamins and adaptogens found in tea, like L-theanine, help the immune system fight infection, bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Adaptogens are a collection of herbs, fungi, and plants, like L-theanine and mushrooms, that have an array of therapeutic effects. The global adaptogens market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 8.55% by 2025. With a health focus, adaptogens have the potential to lower stress levels, promote relaxation, and boost immunity. The benefits of adaptogens can reach consumers in the form of functional drinks, powders, and even snacks. Certain adaptogens, like mushrooms and ashwagandha, often come in the form of chocolate or coffee to counteract its bitter taste. Ashwagandha is especially popular in teas, coffee, and kombucha and can reduce cortisol levels and stress.
While a focus on health and well-being remains a top priority for consumers, the focus is now shifting toward relieving stress and promoting a sense of relaxation. Products that cater to stress relief, sleep, and relaxation, like wellness teas and adaptogens, are seeing a rise in sales while other health-focused products, like plant-based categories, are seeing a decline. A number of these products help reduce stress and enhance relaxation while simultaneously providing immune-boosting and vitamin-rich aspects, providing consumers with the best of both worlds.
Brands Taking a New Approach
On the wellness tea front, Hain’s Celestial Seasonings and Twinings have taken steps to meet consumers’ changing needs. Celestial Seasoning, known for its Sleepytime brand, launched its Tea Well line in 2019. Tea Well adds to the brand built on herds, botanicals, and spices with prebiotics, probiotics, and fiber now incorporated in its formulas. Some Tea Well options include Mood Tonic, Sleep with melatonin, and Gut Health.
Teas with probiotics have grown in the past four years to reach $29 million and those with immunity benefits have surpassed $30 million. Similarly, Twinings decided to capitalize on this growing trend by releasing its Superblends collection. These well-being teas feature products like Sleep+, Energy+, Immune Support+, and Heartea+. Along with its basic functions and ingredients, the Superblends line includes new vitamins, adaptogens, and flavors to help stand out from its previous products as well as competitors.
While adaptogens can arise in tea, various brands are finding ways to incorporate them into other beverages and foods. In September of 2020, PepsiCo released its sleep aid beverage Driftwell, which contains the amino acid L-theanine which helps with relaxation. By May of 2021, the brand had announced the launch of its functional sparking water Soulboost, which works to enhance mental stamina. GPG brand Mondelēz has also entered the wellness and adaptogens space with its line of Millie Gram nut butters featuring reishi mushrooms to promote well-being and longevity.
Moving Forward with Health and Well-Being
With the lingering pandemic, consumers continue to take steps to increase immune health and lower the risk of communicative diseases. As the demand for sustainable and preventative supplements rises, herbs and botanicals serve to meet those demands. While wellness teas and adaptogens, like L-theanine and mushrooms, work to enhance health and well-being, they also diminish stress levels and promote sleep and relaxation.
As consumers continue to prioritize their health and well-being, along with managing stress levels and pursuing relaxation, brands must remain mindful of consumers’ ever-changing needs. Focusing on both old and new trends is essential in maintaining relevance and competitiveness.
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Contributions by Rachel Ruth