Brain food ripe for growth, but who will lead the charge?

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition, Compound annual growth rate, Datamonitor

Brain food ripe for growth, but who will lead the charge?
Cognitive function is the functional foods category where the gap between interest and buying behavior is the widest, suggesting there are big bucks to be made, but only if firms can come up with products consumers can trust.

The US brain food category was growing much faster than many other functional food categories, although with a retail value of less than $2bn in 2009 (compared with $3.3bn for bone and joint health $9.7bn for digestive and immunity health and $5.6bn for heart health), it remained relatively small, said Datamonitor product launch analytics director Tom Vierhile.

This was chiefly because the science was still emerging and consumers did not know which products were backed by sound science, added Vierhile, who was speaking at the SupplySide East show in New Jersey last week.

Consumers: Interested, but unsure what to buy

But should clearer data emerge about which ingredients to back, the market opportunity was significant because consumers of all ages were increasingly concerned about losing their mental edge and/or memory, he argued: “The cognitive health area is where there is the biggest gap between interest and actual purchasing behavior.”

Datamonitor predicts that cognitive health foods will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.8% between 2009 and 2014, rising from $1.198bn to $2.095bn.

This compares with a CAGR of 4.4 percent for bone and joint health products (estimated to be worth $4.15bn in 2014); a CAGR of 7.7 percent for digestive and immunity health products (est. $14.13bn in 2014); and a CAGR of 4.8 percent for heart health products (est. $7.08bn in 2014).

While baby boomers were the obvious target market for brain foods, people in their 30s were also worried about their mental acuity in later life, as well as their lack of energy and alertness now, which made energy-type drinks one route into the market for the younger age group, he said.

Food and stress relief

While the gap between interest and purchasing behavior was also wide when it came to stress relief, the size of the market opportunity for mood and relaxation foods was less clear, however, said Bob McNabb, business director at the Natural Marketing Institute.

“Stress keeps coming up in surveys of 30-somethings but I don’t think the food industry has worked out whether there is a market opportunity here or not beyond ‘calming’ teas and the like, as consumers can do a lot of things to relax or improve their mood that don’t involve food. It's far easier to make a connection between low energy levels and energy foods and drinks."

​According to Datamonitor, 57 percent of consumers say they are ‘actively interested in’ products relating to relaxation but only 19% claim to be actively buying them.

Related topics: Suppliers, Cognitive function

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