Over the past four years, consumers have been shopping for more products based on the role they play in promoting good health and reducing the risk of disease. The result is an increase in demand for items that taste great AND deliver added health benefits.
With health and wellness still being front of mind for many consumers, the food and beverage industry uses language to describe the different qualities an ingredient brings to a product. One term that has risen to prominence in the past few years is “functional ingredients.” “Functional ingredients” can best be defined as those that provide some sort of health benefit to the consumer.
Below are some of the functional ingredients that are trending positively in 2023 thus far.
Adaptogens is a word the consumer is seeing a lot of these days in the realm of functional ingredients in food and beverage, but they may not know exactly what they are and that familiar herbs fall into this category of functional ingredients.
Adaptogens come from plant material, namely herbs and roots, that help the body manage and combat different stressors. They are used to bringing balance back to the body.
These are a few adaptogens that are either featured prominently on grocery store shelves today or are becoming more widely known given their beneficial health properties.
Aloe Vera is a succulent that thrives in tropical climates. Most consumers are familiar with it because its gel is typically marketed as a way to treat sunburn, acne, psoriasis, and surface-level wounds. Due to the high concentration of water in its leaves, Aloe is a great source of hydration, flushing out toxins and impurities. It also provides a healthy dose of Vitamins B, C, and E. The result of these healing properties is that consumers are seeing more aloe vera juice drinks on the shelves.
Ashwagandha is a small shrub that grows in India, parts of Africa, and the Middle East that has been used medicinally for hundreds of years. Its roots and berries are said to boost energy levels, reduce stress and anxiety, improve brain function, lower blood sugar levels, and increase fertility. What more could you ask for?
Ginger, which is a staple in Southeast Asian cooking, is a flowering plant; the underground part of the stem known as the rhizome which looks like a thick root is what consumers will find in a grocery store’s produce section. It can also be purchased in powder, oil, or juice form. People can use ginger to treat nausea, upset stomach, and indigestion. It is also used to treat osteoarthritis, the degeneration of joint tissue which causes stiffness and pain.
Ginseng is a root which has long been used in Chinese medicine. There are two types on the market today: American and Asian. Despite being from the same family of plant, the two offer different health benefits. American ginseng is used for its antioxidant properties and to boost the immune system. People with Type 2 Diabetes can also use it to lower blood sugar levels. Asian ginseng (also known as Korean red ginseng) can mitigate the possible onset of the cold or flu, promote heart health, improve physical endurance, and minimize symptoms of menopause.
Mushrooms are typically thought of as an ingredient in a savory culinary dish like Stuffed Portobellos. While it’s true that these fungi are a staple in many diets, certain mushroom varieties like Lion’s Mane, Reishi, Shitake and Maitake have notable medicinal qualities. Mushrooms have been used to treat infection, boost the immune system, alleviate stress, and improve sleep. They are also used to treat heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
Rosemary is an extremely fragrant herb that many consumers are familiar with because it’s a key ingredient in Mediterranean food. The evergreen shrub is a member of the mint family, as are many of the other herbs like Thyme, Basil, and Oregano. Rosemary is used for its anti-inflammatory properties, improving circulation, aiding in digestion, and improving focus and memory.
Turmeric is best known for its place in Indian cooking. It is the main spice in curry that gives it its golden color and its bright, slightly bitter taste. Turmeric comes from the stem of the Turmeric plant, which grows in India and South East Asia. Beyond its role in cooking, Turmeric, powered by curcumin, the substance responsible for the spice’s bright hue, has notable anti-inflammatory properties. Hence, Turmeric has been used for thousands of years to treat various illnesses and health problems, including inflammation, arthritis, heart disease, high cholesterol, and allergies.
Amino Acids are molecules that the body needs to build protein as well as break down food in the digestive system, boost immunity, build muscle, and develop hormones. There are nine essential amino acids that the body cannot produce, including Lysine, Phenylalanine, and Tryptophan. The body is able to produce 11 amino acids, and these are called nonessential amino acids. They include Alanine, Glutamine, and Glycine. Most animal proteins like eggs, poultry and beef contain essential amino acids, as do soy, some grains like buckwheat and quinoa, and soy.
L-theanine is an amino acid that the body does not produce on its own; it can be found in some mushrooms, green tea, and black tea. Researchers believe that L-theanine might affect the levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, which impact one’s emotions, and mood. It can be taken to improve cognitive function and focus, to reduce anxiety and stress, to improve quality of sleep, and to boost one’s immune system.
Collagen is the most prominent protein our body produces. It is in our skin, bones, tendons, muscles, and ligaments – even in our teeth! As we get older, our bodies produce less collagen, resulting in rougher skin and weaker joints. The health benefits of taking a collagen supplement or consuming products featuring collagen as an active ingredient are many, including improved skin hydration and elasticity, relief from aching joints, and support of the development of muscle.
A mineral garnering attention in the last few years has been Magnesium for its role in helping the body get a better night’s sleep. It also helps support brain and body function. Magnesium not only helps regulate blood pressure and keeps bones strong, but it can also help improve energy levels, digestion and heart function. Foods that are high in magnesium include leafy greens, nuts, seeds and legumes.
Probiotics and Prebiotics
These are the foundation of a healthy gut.
- Probiotics are the live yeasts and bacteria that help maintain and support a healthy gut and aid in digestion. Doctors often recommend a probiotic supplement to restore balance to the body’s bacterial system after taking antibiotics. They are also used to treat lactose intolerance, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and Diarrhea.
- Prebiotics are plant fibers and carbohydrates that the body cannot readily digest. When they move through the lower digestive tract, they feed the healthy bacteria that promote gut health. Prebiotics are found in a variety of different vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, such as bananas, cocoa, garlic, leeks, and flaxseeds.
Electrolytes for Optimized Hydration
Electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, and chloride, are essential for various bodily functions, including nerve conduction, muscle contraction, and fluid balance. Water transports and distributes these electrolytes throughout the body. There are many products on the market containing electrolytes that a consumer can add to water; there are also RTD beverages with electrolytes added to their formulations to improve hydration.
Vitamin C, also known as L. ascorbic acid, can be taken in many different forms to ward off the common cold as well as fight infections. Where to get your supply of Vitamin C? Whether it be in raw produce such as strawberries, citrus, and spinach or in the plethora of food and beverage products featuring the immunity-boosting vitamin, the resources are abundant.
Zinc is an essential element found in the human body that aids the functioning of metabolism and the immune system. It can also be found in whole grains, oysters, chicken and red meat. People can take Zinc for treatment of a cold, for diarrhea, and for the healing of wounds.
When combined, Vitamin C and Zinc are a particularly powerful duo for improving immunity. Grapefruit and elderberry offer high levels of both.
Melatonin is a supplement used for sleep issues including insomnia. Melatonin is a hormone our brain produces, letting us know when it’s time to go to sleep and when it’s time to wake up. Typically, our bodies generate more melatonin at night when the amount of light we are exposed to diminishes. Melatonin supplements come in liquid, pill or chewable form and are either natural or synthetic; the natural form sourced from animals or micro-organisms. Beyond taking Melatonin for better sleep, consumers also take it to manage jet lag and post-operative pain.
Cannabinoids are chemical substances found in the trichomes of cannabis plants. Of the over 100+ identified cannabinoids, the two most well-known are CBD, found in hemp and marijuana plants, and THC, found mostly in marijuana. Recently some of the minor cannabinoids have garnered attention for their potential health benefits, such as CBG, CBN, CBC, and THCv. With infused product developers interested in the Entourage Effect, more products featuring either CBD or THC paired with a minor cannabinoid and/or terpenes have come to market in the past two years.
The Future of Cannabinoids = CBD/THC/Minors + (Insert Functional Ingredient Here)
Most consumers want to minimize the number of products in their daily health routine, yet still get the nutritional value of all the vitamins, minerals, supplements, and other functional ingredients. The best way to achieve this is to pair functional ingredients in food or beverage products. In this next wave of infused food and beverage products, cannabinoids will likely share the spotlight with some of the functional ingredients described above, and that ingredient will be dependent on the product’s purpose and the consumer’s needs.
Combining ingredients is not as easy as one would think. The R&D Team at SōRSE understands the challenges and nuances of pairing various cannabinoids with other functional ingredients. Leveraging our current emulsion portfolio combined with our formulation and technical expertise, we can create a blended solution tailored to your needs. If you are considering adding adaptogens or another functional ingredient to meet your consumer’s needs, get in touch with the SōRSE team today!