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Beverage-makers innovate with new products to boost brain power

[Mar 9, 2022: Barbara Harfmann]

Cognizin citicoline has been featured in more than 200 products globally. (CREDIT: C4 Energy Drinks)

In the 1939 MGM motion picture “The Wizard of Oz,” the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), in need of a brain, accompanies Dorothy (Judy Garland) down the yellow brick road to the Emerald City to ask the Wizard of Oz for help. Yet, throughout the movie, the Scarecrow is the “brains” of the foursome as he tells the Cowardly Lion (Burt Lahr) that he has a plan, and he’s going to lead them as they overtake the prison guards and sneak into the Witch’s castle to rescue Dorothy. When it comes to cognitive health and energy ingredients, beverage manufacturers are giving consumers a “plan” and many options when it comes to balancing mental and emotional well-being.

Among the trends in functional beverages are products that provide an edge in managing stress and support better focus and cognition. It’s not just baby boomers (born between 1954-1967) that are trying to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, which affects an estimated 6.2 million Americans — numbers that are projected to rise to nearly 13 million by 2050, the Alzheimer’s Association states.


One in nine people aged 65 and older (11.3%) has Alzheimer’s dementia and almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women. Older Black Americans are about twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias, while older Hispanics are about one-and-a-half times likely to get the disease as older Whites, the association says.

Among the many cognitive health ingredients that support mental energy, memory, focus and attention are Kyowa Hakko’s Cognizin citicoline. (Video courtesy of Kyowa Hakko)

To prevent the debilitating condition, several trends are influencing the use of cognitive health and energy ingredients within beverages and supplements, experts note. These include increased awareness of overall wellness based on social media and Internet searches, improved clinical research and studies on ingredient efficacy, and the rise of nootropics to enhance cognition and memory and to facilitate learning.


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David Tetzlaf, marketing director for Blue California, Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., notes that the younger market such as millennials (born between 1981-1996) and Gen Z (born between 1997-2012) are looking for products that provide an edge in managing stress and supporting better focus.

Beverage manufacturers can capitalize on this desire and move from ‘energy’ to mental energy and focus,” Tetzlaf says. “As a result of the pandemic’s impact on health and mental well-being, the consumer trend is to support brain health, mood and sleep. These are interrelated and a leading focus for functional foods and beverages, according to Innova. Fifty-eight percent of consumers wish to alleviate stress. In the same report from September 2021 on functional foods, 66% of consumers seek out products that improve sleep quality.”

Also noting the impact of the pandemic on at-home consumption, Kyowa Hakko Marketing Manager Maria Stanieich notes that today’s consumers are desiring products that support and fuel their everyday lifestyle.


The New York-based company commissioned Gallup to investigate cognitive health trends in 1,208 adults and found that two-thirds of adults experienced cognitive problems in 2018 and more than a half (57%) are concerned with improving their brain power. The poll also discovered that memory loss becomes more prominent with age, while the ability to concentrate and focus is more prevalent with younger adults. In fact, almost half (47%) of 18- to 34-year-olds said they experienced such issues in the past year.

Designed to improve mind and body well-being, VYBES features plant-derived hemp CBD to improve mental health. (CREDIT: VYBES)

Gamers in focus

With a greater focus on everyday health, maintaining an active lifestyle and supporting wellness remain top drivers for beverage products, Kyowa Hakko’s Stanieich says. She also suggests there’s considerable growth potential for memory-focused ingredients for gamers of all ages.


“There’s also been a notable demand for cognitive health ingredients within the eSports community,” she explains. “This sizeable audience of PC gamers, mobile gamers, etc., is made up of a lot of different consumers. This consumer base is interested in products that support and fuel their lifestyle. The use of cognitive supplements has increased dramatically over the past several years. There is a huge marketing opportunity in the beverage space.”

She notes that Cognizin citicoline, which has been featured in more than 200 products globally, isn’t chemically synthesized, and is made using the company’s innovative fermentation process to deliver top-quality and purity, while being vegetarian, allergen-free and self-affirmed GRAS.

“We believe a product like Cognizin citicoline with strong science and commitment to well-designed research will continue to be the gold standard by which clinically substantiated claims will be measured,” Kyowa Hakko’s Stanieich says.

With stress and mood the top health concerns among Gen Z and millennials, who also rank experiential and emotional measures as most important when evaluating their health, Laurentia Guesman, business manager at AIDP Inc., notes that this combination is driving interest and usage in products that don’t have negative side effects.

The City of Industry, Calif.-based company offers a nootropic portfolio that experienced double-digit growth in 2021, with no signs of slowing down, Guesman says.


These ingredients include the patented Magtein (magnesium L-threonate) supplement that has been clinically shown to support cognitive function and brain health. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study demonstrated that Magtein significantly improved cognition in four areas: executive function, working memory, episodic memory and attention at six and 12 weeks.

“Magtein’s chemical structure allows it to cross the blood brain barrier, which is the only effective magnesium compound with that ability,” Guesman explains. “We were able to ensure that Magtein is reaching the tissues that they are specified for, through bioavailability and input/excretion testing. The unique ability to cross the blood brain barrier results in cognitive effects felt quickly with long-lasting results.”

Magtein also is FDA GRAS and can be formulated into a wide array of beverages. The ingredient was formulated into its first ready-to-drink (RTD) functional beverage in 2021, she adds.

Also supporting mental energy, memory, focus and attention is Kyowa Hakko’s Cognizin citicoline, a brain health nutrient that provides mental wellness benefits without the jitters associated with caffeine, the company says. The clinically studied ingredient is stable, soluble, tasteless, GRAS and works well in beverage applications, Stanieich adds.

“Cognizin facilitates membrane fluidity and plasticity, fortifies cell membrane structures and enhances neuron communication,” she says.


A link to overall health

As today’s consumers focus on a “prevention over cure approach to health,” 63% of those surveyed in the U.S. by FMCG Gurus in 2021 agree that cognitive health and energy levels were the top areas, along with immunity, that global consumers would like to improve upon. An additional 15% strongly agree there is a link between cognitive health and overall health. The same study by the FMCG Gurus found that 62% are likely, and 13% are very likely to search for foods and drinks designed to improve cognitive health, while 32% strongly agree and 29% agree that they are interested in foods and drinks that offer sustained energy specifically for the brain to stay alert and mentally active.

As a result, new innovations are hitting the market.

In January, Will Nitze, founder and CEO of IQBAR, a brain and body nutrition startup, launched IQMIX, a first-of-its-kind hydration stick pack that blends hydration and brain function with zero grams of sugar and just 1 gram of total carbohydrates. Free of GMOs, gluten, dairy and soy, IQMIX layers on brain-functional compounds with the Lion’s Mane adaptogen and Magtein, which has been clinically shown to enhance cognitive performance and mood, the company says.

Meanwhile, in August 2021, two-time NASCAR Cup Champion Kyle Busch and beverage entrepreneur Jeff Church added two new flavors to its Rowdy Energy lineup. A better-for-you energy drink filled with electrolytes and 160 mg of naturally occurring caffeine derived from green tea, paired with the nootropic, L-Theanine, Rowdy Energy released Blue Raspberry, a keto friendly and zero sugar offering, and Grape, which contains 60% less sugar than the leading energy drinks, the company says.


Blue California’s Tetzlaf notes that the top emerging nootropics for supporting cognition in the beverage space include L-Theanine, ginseng and mushrooms. Found in green tea leaves, L-Theanine is a nootropic and an adaptogen that is becoming a popular, mainstream ingredient to pair with caffeine to boost energy without jitters, he explains.

The company offers L-TeaActive L-Theanine, an adaptogen that noticeably brings down stress levels, and ErgoActive L-ergothioneine, produced by a proprietary fermentation process, is an antioxidant believed to reduce the accumulation of long-term oxidative damage.

“An in vitro study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements has demonstrated that Blue California's L-TeaActive L-ergothioneine can help preserve telomere length and reduce the rate of telomere shortening under oxidative stress, thus contributing to healthy aging,” Tetzlaf explains. “The in vitro study is the first time ergothioneine has been studied for its effect on telomere length. Overall, the study results suggest that L-ergothioneine as part of a healthy diet could potentially mitigate the negative effects of oxidative stress and support healthy aging by helping to preserve telomere length and reduce the rate of shortening.”

As more studies commence on healthy aging, interest is growing in L-ergothioneine as a super antioxidant, but the ingredient’s high price and commercial availability have presented challenges to product developers. With advancements in the fermentation process and its proprietary bioconversion, Blue California is able to produce high-purity, non-GMO ergothioneine at a lower cost at commercial scale, the company says.

In addition to Magtein, AIDP offers BacoMind, a patented, clinically tested “memory and cognition enhancing” standardized phytochemical composition that contains nine different bio-actives. Derived from Bacopa monnieri, a plant revered in ayurvedic medicine for boosting memory and cognition, BacoMind has received GRAS approval and has been clinically tested to improve memory acquisition and retention in the elderly and improve self-control and attention in children ages six to 12 years, Guesman says.


Additionally, CogniPLUS is AIDP’s new proprietary branded complex of phospholipids. Made using a patented, solvent-free water extraction technology, CogniPLUS focuses on stress, memory, mood and PMS symptoms.

When formulating a beverage with cognitive health and energy ingredients, AIDP’s Guesman notes that “messaging, taste and dose” are all critical factors to a successful beverage product.

To help meet the real world needs of consumers interested in peak performance, mental clarity, health and wellness and quality of life, the release of new products for cognitive health and energy support will continue to require investment and creativity.

In fact, the active lifestyle market grew 5.5% to $40.5 billion in 2020, and the Nutrition Business Journal predicts that the growth trajectory will remain steady in the years to come, Kyowa Hakko’s Stanieich says.

“Recent innovations incorporating novel ingredients for everyday and overall health maintenance is a growing consumer interest as indicated in the 2021 NBJ Active Lifestyle Report,” Stanieich says. “Post pandemic, consumers are seeking out new and innovative health products for daily use. This has allowed emerging concepts and new brand offerings to emerge.”


Experts expect that the cognitive health and energy category will continue to grow and evolve to meet the demands of a wider audience searching for personalized nutrition and optimal ways to balance their physical, emotional and mental well-being.

Stanieich suggests that “healthy aging” and the target demographic for brain health is top of mind for younger consumers as well as the aging population.

“Formulations that deliver a specific function, including immune support, mental performance and energy boost will engage functional beverage drinkers,” she concludes. “This market has several opportunities for expansion including innovative areas to meet the need for new buying habits.”

For more science and technology stories check out our New Innovations section at The Brighter Side of News.


Note: Materials provided above by Barbara Harfmann. Content may be edited for style and length.


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