In recent years, consumers have shown increasing interest in beverages as a way to boost their energy and keep pace with modern life. Now, increasing numbers of food and beverage companies are betting this desire for greater get-up-and-go will mean consumers will also purchase foods for their energy-boosting abilities.
Foods that provide stepped-up brain function – memory, clarity and focus – are also gaining appeal worldwide.
“Addressing brain health spans the lifecycle and is very emotionally relevant,” says Diane-Louise Hnat, senior technical Marketing manager at DSM Nutritional Products, Inc. “We all want to give our children the best start in life mentally and academically, so mothers are drawn to incorporating any possible brain boosting nutrients at an early age. And for maturing adults in the large population of baby boomers, keeping the brain and memory sharp as we try to keep our bodies fit and young-looking is certainly important.”
Successfully introducing energy-boosting foods is strongly tied to consumers’ familiarity with ingredients in energy drinks, a market that is still expanding. Alcoholic beverages and tea with ginseng, caffeine and other peppy ingredients constitute areas of strong growth. In addition, more specialized beverages are appearing, including glacéau vitaminwater, released in Canada in June and featuring selections such as fruit punch flavoured Restore, which contains vitamin C, B vitamins (to promote energy release) and potassium (an important electrolyte), all designed to help with recovery after exertion.
Some industry experts aren’t convinced, however, that familiarity with these ingredients will lead consumers to reach for foods to charge up. “In terms of caffeine, guarana and ginseng, consumers go to energy drinks,” says Brian Baker, business manager of Performance Nutrition for Nestlé Canada. Marion Chan, director of Food and Beverage at researcher The NPD Group, Inc., agrees. “When people think of caffeine and ginseng,” she says, “they think beverages.
They don’t think food.” Instead, Chan says companies are using an alternative strategy, one which also rests on familiarity. “As more mainstream products become associated with these ingredients they will become more popular as consumers become more aware,” she says. For example, Innova, a Netherlands-based organization that tracks new product development, reports that Snickers recently released Snickers Charged in the U.S., featuring caffeine, taurine and B vitamins. Other confectionery companies adding similarly energy-charged products include Jelly Belly in the U.S., which recently released Extreme Sport Beans containing electrolytes and vitamins B and C. And Mentos now offers Mentos Energy hard candy in Greece, with one roll containing an amount of caffeine equal to two cups of coffee.
Some companies, such as Shandiz Natural Foods in Markham, Ont., are going the natural route, however, choosing not to use added ingredients in their energy-boosting food products. According to Marketing manager Salma Fotovat, “People are aware of how good nutrition affects your energy levels. Our bars provide benefits but also taste good.”
Shandiz Taste of Nature snack bars offer organic, kosher and vegan ingredients, contain various nuts and seeds, and are sweetened with organic brown rice or agave syrup, providing a very low glycemic index. In addition, the company’s Taste of Nature Exotics line contains antioxidant rich pomegranate (which has been traditionally used as a mental calming agent), as well as a mix of berries and flax, which contain omega-3 and antioxidants. These bars were recently re-launched, resulting in a boost in sales for the company. “These are ingredients that have been around for a long time, but we are naming them now and explaining why they are good for us,” says Fotovat.
Richmond, B.C.-based Nature’s Path also offers organic and all-natural energy products without the additives. For instance, the company markets several cereals targeted at boosting or replenishing energy, such as its Optimum Power cereal. Director of Marketing Maria Emmer-Aanes notes that it is the aging baby boomers who are creating a demand for foods that provide sustained energy. “Our sacred grains [such as Kamut and spelt] stay with you,” she says.