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Symrise Healthy Lifestyles Initiative: A Study of Modern Functional Health Trends

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Symrise Healthy Lifestyles Initiative: A Study of Modern Functional Health Trends

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People around the globe have a deep longing to find balance in an unbalanced world. This is one of the main functional health trends identified through a new study released by Symrise, who conducted primary research by interviewing health-minded Millennials and Gen Zs as well as health experts like dieticians, physical trainers, etc.

Overall, Symrise determined five innovation platforms, all driving a shift toward healthy food and beverage ingredients. They found a framework for wellbeing, which offers guidance for food innovation. The five platforms are:

  • Back to the Future
  • Let Food be thy Medicine
  • Blurring Boundaries
  • Natural Power-up
  • Permissible Indulgence

Let’s begin with Back to the Future​.

Consumers today are looking for pure and sustainable products created with natural ingredients that have survived many generations. These heirloom flavors, ingredients, and methods have been sources of vitality and wellness over the years. The concept is about innovating with the value of primal products that fight against disease and sickness while improving gut health. These foods work to cleanse the body and reduce inflammation. This trend takes consumers back to a time of ancient knowledge while acknowledging current and future demands. Together, manufacturers and thought leaders can find an approach to long-term health through food and beverages.

The top trending ingredients in this important innovation platform fall into four categories.

  • Therapeutic Spices

These are spices and seeds considered beneficial in fighting off disease. The dominant flavor in this category is ginger, while turmeric is emerging as an extremely popular offering.

  • Adaptogens

Adaptogens are ingredients that support the body’s natural ability to deal with physical and mental stress. Ashwagandha is a traditional ingredient in Ayurveda that remains a leading choice, while the powerful Reishi mushroom is a rising favorite. This mushroom has powerful benefits for improving the immune system.

  • Gut Health​ and Ayurveda​ round out the remaining categories in this platform.

The next Innovation Platform on the list is Let Food Be Thy Medicine​. This trend shows that consumers connect food to wellbeing.

Younger generations of consumers are continuously looking for a preventative, rather than reactive, approach to healthcare. Holistic health is an important component of everyday living for many of these consumers. One of the key ways they focus on holistic health is by paying attention to the naturalness of the foods they eat. More and more often, consumers look for — and expect — healthy food and beverage ingredients.

Of course, this new generation isn’t the first to look at food as medicinal. But in a post-Covid world, there is a specific focus on how foods, drinks, and supplements can boost immunity and prevent illness. In addition to using special diets for weight loss, consumers are beginning to look at using diets to boost their immune systems, prevent illness, and even bolster mental health.

Two of the top ingredients in this category and the most important medicinal factors are:

  • Immune-Boosters:​ This list includes ingredients that have been shown to boost the immune system, including elderberries and kiwi.
  • Aromatics:​ Foods like oat grass and saffron are popular because of their potential as mood boosters.
  • Other ingredients in this platform include Adaptogens​ and Weight-Loss Foods​.

There are numerous ways to use these ingredients in products that consumers will enjoy. Cold-pressed juices, kombuchas, and coconut waters are great examples of products that take immune-boosting and mood-boosting ingredients and compress them into a convenient, drinkable product. Soups and broths may include a combination of aromatics, mushrooms, and immune-boosting ingredients.

The third innovation platform is Blurring Boundaries: Self Care Food and Beverage​.

Increasingly, customers view a healthy lifestyle as involving more than just the food they eat and the way they nurture their minds and bodies. Their holistic view of a healthy lifestyle means that, more and more, the lines blur between personal care, over-the-counter medication, and foods and beverages.

The concept of naturalness is now considered key to addressing functional wellness needs. Customers want to embrace self-care from the inside out. As a result, products need to be able

to do more than one thing. For example, they may need to have anti-aging properties while also boosting immune function or improving mental agility.

Top ingredients that can help blur boundaries include those with anti-aging properties. These can improve the feeling of wellness, helping consumers feel younger and more confident, while also improving bodily functionality. Some ingredients in this category include:

  • Collagen foods:​ Foods that boost the body’s natural collagen production are often used to replicate beauty products. These foods include fish, avocado, citrus fruits, berries, garlic, and white tea.
  • Hydrating ingredients:​ Aloe vera has superior hydrating qualities, and has been used for years to support skin health and cleanse the body. Coconut water is emerging as a top hydrating ingredient.
  • Other ingredients of note in this category are Berries, Green Tea and CBD​.
Bowl of berries photo -600x300 (1)

One example of self care products that blur boundaries are collagen-rich foods and beverages. Crisps made of salmon skins or fortified granolas are great snacks because they can be worked into consumers' daily lifestyles and include anti-aging benefits. Juices are also frequently used to help consumers achieve beauty from the inside out. Consumers look to things like juice masks or lotions that offer the benefit of juices while creating a relaxing, hydrating product for their skin. Fortified waters also provide a great way for consumers to stay hydrated while also garnering the health benefits they’re looking for.

The next innovation platform to explore is the concept of Natural Power-Up: Food and Beverage for Energy, Mental Clarity and Creativity​.

In today’s ultra-connected, productivity-focused world, consumers are looking for natural ingredients that can give them the boost of power they need to get through the day. They hope for mental clarity and creativity inspired by the foods they eat.

The idea behind the natural power-up platform is to provide bookends framing a consumer’s day, starting with a productivity and energy booster in the morning and ending with soothing, relaxing foods in the evening to help them put the day’s stressors behind them and drift off into an easy sleep. This powerful combination can keep consumers sharp during the day without disturbing their sleep or causing anxiety in the evening.

There are four major functional ingredients within this innovation platform. At the top of the list are:

  • Green Machine:​ From spirulina to wheatgrass, consumers are looking for green, all-natural alternatives to caffeine with the power to boost energy levels naturally.
  • Nootropics:​ Consumers want to rev up their days with mind-sharpening ingredients, including ginkgo biloba and Siberian ginseng, that have been shown to boost focus and increase productivity.
  • Two additional ingredients complete this innovation platform – Relaxation Foods​ and Teas​.
Green drink shots photo -600x300

From snack bars to energy drinks, there are many foods consumers reach for to make it through the day. What makes this new innovation platform different is that consumers care more than ever before what goes into these energy boosters, so they might be more attracted to an energy drink featuring spirulina and green tea rather than an energy drink largely composed of chemicals they can’t pronounce. Fortified waters and sweet snack foods are emerging as promising foods in this category. Functional ingredients combined with a sensuous flavor palette make these the perfect natural power-up foods and drinks.

The final innovation platform to explore is Permissible Indulgence: Healthy Alternatives to Feel-Good Foods​.

Consumers want to be healthy, but that doesn’t mean that they’re ready to give up on great tastes and experiences. The Permissible Indulgence innovation platform is all about finding healthy snacks and fast foods that satiate cravings without compromising the quality ingredients consumers expect.

The core idea is to find ways to make healthy foods interesting and exciting. This may involve mimicking common, feel-good foods using healthy, plant-based ingredients, or coming up with entirely new recipes that hit those feel-good taste receptors and keep consumers coming back for more.

When creating foods for permissible indulgence, the key is to focus on both the taste and the high-quality, healthy ingredients used. The major categories in this platform are:

  • Healthy Sweeteners:​ Natural sweeteners like maple syrup and coconut sugar bolster the taste of healthy foods without any of the guilt that comes with unnatural sweeteners like glucose or sucralose.
  • Plant-Based Proteins:​ As meat sources continue to be a hot topic, especially among younger generations concerned for both their health and the environment, plant-based protein sources are becoming increasingly popular. Jackfruit is a popular choice to create the intersection between health, sustainability, and experience, while seitan is emerging as a newly-exciting alternative.

One final ingredient group of importance in this category is Flavoring Facades​.

Some of the best examples of how to use these ingredients include offering healthy, plant-based fast food options and nutrient-rich snacks packed with flavor. Right now, it’s on-trend to make pulled jackfruit sandwiches in place of pulled pork sandwiches. The jackfruit can recreate that fleshy mouth-feel, while BBQ sauces made from maple syrup and coconut sugars add to the experience. Another option is using plant-based ingredients to recreate the texture of carbohydrates without the empty calories. Finally, non-alcoholic beverages, such as kombucha beer, are emerging as a new trend. These beverages can allow consumers to engage in a socially-acceptable way while actually feeling better at the end of the night, not worse.

By using a multi-lens approach that started with exploring secondary data, speaking with experts, and surveying customers and manufacturers to help identify these macro trends, Symrise discovered an entire landscape of healthy lifestyles, finding new relevance across different food and beverage categories.

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