Mental health topics trending in book sales, indicating strong market for nootropic supplements

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images
Getty Images
The coming year could be a good one for nootropic supplements. That idea is supported by data from a major bookstore chain that shows mental health topics are topping the self care category.

Barnes and Noble, the country’s largest brick and mortar specialty book seller, recently released figures show that in the self help category sales are trending significantly toward mental and emotional health subjects and less toward the traditional New Year’s mainstay—dieting and exercise.

According to information released by the chain last week, sales of books in the mental/emotional health category are outselling diet and exercise books by a ratio of about 5 to 3.

"Books related to self-improvement are always in high demand around the New Year, but in a recent shift, books focused on mental well-being are far outpacing titles addressing exercise and dieting,” ​said Liz Harwell, senior director of merchandising, trade books at Barnes & Noble.

 “When it comes to preparing for New Year’s resolutions and goals, the data shows that across the chain more people are buying books about mental and emotional well-being as opposed to what were previously the more popular areas of exercise and dieting,”​ she added.

Fear of dementia helps drive trend

Product development consultant Tim Avila, a principal in the firm Systems Bioscience, said this matches what he has seen in the market.

“I think there are two things at work in the rush to buy these books,” Avila told NutraIngredients-USA. “One is, hey, I’m afraid of losing my mind.  Then there is this other ground, where people are looking for ways to maximize their mental performance.”

According to information gathered by NutraIngredients-USA in mid 2018, analytical labs have seen an uptick in the demand for testing services and trial design related to nootropic ingredients​.  In response, one firm, KGK Science, has developed a framework for measuring cognitive endpoints in randomized controlled trials​ for supplement ingredients.

 This covers range of ingredients including citicoline (Cognizin), Bacopa monnieri​ , phosphatidylserine, Rhodiola rosea​ , Ginkgo biloba​ , spearmint extract (Neumentix), omega-3s, B-vitamins, magnesium L- threonate (Magtein), Inositol-stabilized arginine silicate (Nitrosigine), theacrine (Teacrine). In late 2018, NutraIngredients-USA identified nootropics as one of the hot trends for 2019​.

Beverages expected to be big play

Avila, who said he cooperated in some of the development work on theacrine, said he believes these ingredients will increasingly find a home in the RTD beverage and shots category whether these are sold as supplements or foods.  In a way, this development could mirror what happened in the energy category, where pill formats have never made much of a dent in the market and energy drinks rule the day.

“I think it could really take off it is taken over by a mainstream beverage company with the ability to put together a really nice campaign to tell that story,”​ Avila said.

“Look at yerba mate.  Once you put it into a can ​(via the Guayaki brand), and it starts to look like just another beverage, then it started to take off,”​ he said.  

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