Lack of energy and fatigue have become core consumer concerns. Innovations in the natural energy ingredient market provide results without the crash.
Having the energy to perform both physically and mentally at optimal levels is an important aspect of our overall health. Nobody wants to feel sluggish or fatigued, yet many turn to pick-me-up options that offer short-term solutions and exhausting crashes. Often, coffee, tea and energy drinks containing high levels of caffeine are over-consumed, which can lead to jitters, rapid heartbeat and insomnia. Meanwhile, the subsequent crash ends up offsetting the initial goal of improving energy levels throughout the day. It is better to discover the root cause of one’s fatigue or lack of energy so that the problem can be solved for the long-term. Both mental and physical fatigue can have several underlying causes and lead to a lack of overall productivity; however, there are many ways in which we can increase or maintain our energy levels naturally, whether through actions, supplementation, or both.
Consumer Concerns About Energy Levels
The demand for natural solutions for lack of energy has been steadily increasing, with fatigue being a major concern among Americans. According to a study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, titled “Demographic Correlates of Fatigue in the [U.S.] General Population: Results from the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) Initiative,” “Fatigue is a common reason for seeking medical care and a source of considerable economic burden. The prevalence of fatigue in the general population has been reported to range from 7 [percent] to 45 [percent]; a recent study found that 38 percent of [U.S.] workers reported being fatigued.”
There are countless reasons why a person may be feeling fatigued, from lifestyle factors to serious underlying medical conditions. According to Mayo Clinic, “most of the time, fatigue can be traced to one or more of your habits or routines, particularly lack of exercise. It’s also commonly related to depression. On occasion, fatigue is a symptom of other underlying conditions that require medical treatment.” The first step to figuring out the cause of fatigue is to consider lifestyle habits that may be having a negative impact, including alcohol or drug use, excess physical activity, jet lag disorder, lack of physical activity, medications such as antihistamines or cough medicine, not enough sleep, or unhealthy eating habits, Mayo Clinic lists. In addition, it would be wise to acknowledge our busy and fast-paced lifestyles, especially among those who work full time and have a slew of other responsibilities that require energy and focus.
It is difficult to feel our best if our energy levels are consistently low, especially when we have several responsibilities that need attention. Sabrina Di Blasio, director of corporate communications & branding at OmniActive Health Technologies, located in Morristown, NJ, related that “healthy energy continues to be one of the fastest growing categories in the supplement space because consumers are increasingly looking for solutions to help manage a busy life.” She also noted that “mental energy” is an important aspect of overall energy for consumers as well.
Di Blasio shared some sobering statistics that illustrate the magnitude of the need for natural energy ingredients:
• An estimated 55 percent of consumers report that their energy levels have worsened in the last 10 years.
• Fifty-six percent of consumers say they are concerned with preventing conditions like lack of energy and fatigue.
• Thirty-one percent of dietary supplement users cite “energy” as a primary reason for taking dietary supplements. As a condition, it is only second to ‘Overall Health and Wellness.’”
Andrew Shao, PhD, senior vice president of global regulatory & scientific affairs at ChromaDex (Los Angeles, CA), related that “one of the primary [consumer] concerns is caffeine crash,” which the company has responded to with the ingredients they manufacture.
Larry Kolb, president of TSI Group Ltd. located in Missoula, MT, stated, “consumers show increased concerns over stimulants like caffeine (synthetic, or extracted from natural sources). While still clearly the leading energy ingredient, one key consumer trend is the rising interest in non-stimulant energy ingredients [and] alternatives to caffeine.”
Echoing both Shao and Kolb, Sevanti Mehta, president of Unibar located in Houston, TX, noted that “caffeine has long been one of the reigning ingredients for energy boosts, but recently, consumers have begun to shy away from it for other more natural options with fewer potential side effects … consumers looking to manage their weight are also looking to functional food and beverages and supplements to help with their energy needs.”
There are plenty of ways in which we can increase our energy levels. Health.harvard.edu lists some of the ways to do so naturally: “control stress, lighten your load, exercise, avoid smoking, restrict your sleep, eat for energy, use caffeine to your advantage, limit alcohol and drink water.” All of these can be used in tandem to increase daily energy levels.
In addition, companies have been continuously innovating natural ingredients that can increase energy levels safely and effectively without side effects in response to these consumer concerns. Taken along with any necessary lifestyle changes, consumers can feel their best, avoid feelings of fatigue and sustain energy to get through their busy days.
Ingredient Innovations in Response to Consumer Concerns and Market Trends
As innovative new ingredients for natural energy have emerged, market demand has steadily increased, according to Marianne McDonagh, vice president of sales at Bioenergy Life Science, Inc. (BLS) located in Ham Lake, MN. “The energy market … has moved on from the standard energy ingredients of caffeine and B vitamins, which work, but just not very well and they leave you feeling sluggish by 3 p.m.,” she remarked. “The trends I am noticing are the versatility of applications and packaging for this category. Applications include healthy snacks, gummies, beverage stick pads, RTDs and chews. The packaging is now more convenient for people who are constantly on the go, making it easy for them to get the energy they need for their busy day.”
In response to this trend, BLS, according to McDonagh, has recently created “healthy granola bites with our ingredient RiaGev to help provide natural energy in a very tasty, convenient snack.” RiaGev is the company’s newest ingredient and is a “synergistic, unique composition of Bioenergy Ribose and vitamin B3 that increases NAD, ATP and GSH simultaneously,” McDonagh said.
BLS discovered the molecule D-ribose more than 30 years ago and then began offering their multifunctional and natural branded ingredient, Bioenergy Ribose. McDonagh explained that the ingredient is capable of “increasing energy at the cellular level, giving you that sustained feeling of increased energy without the unwanted side effects at the end of the day.” She elaborated that ingredients, such as Bionenergy Ribose are effective “because they work at the cellular level within our [adenosine triphosphate (ATP)] structure. ATP allows us to carry out all vital functions … Bioenergy Ribose is most popular for use in energy-based products, mitochondria support, sports nutrition and many other categories.” The company continually works on prototypes to assist their customers with meeting consumer demands.
Expanding on the research mentioned about consumer demand for natural energy products, Shao noted that “According to data from Mintel Reports, the interest in products with energy claims increased between 2019-2020 by 6 percent.” As far as caffeine, he related that “companies are shifting to natural sources of caffeine via extracts from tea, coffee and other herbs that inherently have caffeine.” However, he notes that newer options are beginning to come into play: “Other ingredients that provide energy can include slow-release carbohydrates, such as specific types of starch that may be incorporated into sports drinks for long endurance events. Another ingredient new to consumers is an amino acid known as L-theanine, [which is] primarily found in green and black tea and can help with focus, which may be perceived as ‘energy’ by consumers.”
ChromaDex, according to Shao, “commercialized NAD+ precursor nicotinamide riboside as the ingredient Niagen in 2013” and began “selling Tru Niagen as a consumer product in 2017.” He continued that “Niagen helps our cells to be energized and healthy, encouraging our bodies to function at an optimal level and helping to maintain and produce natural cellular energy.” NAD+, he explained, “is found in every cell and is necessary for our body to convert the food we eat into energy for our bodies. When our cells have energy, we can do what we enjoy: exercise, play, concentrate on work and have the metabolic flexibility to adapt to external stressors that may damage cells, such as excessive alcohol [consumption] and sun exposure. Our cells also need energy to combat and repair environmental stressors that cause DNA damage. NAD+ serves as the foundation for these repair processes.”
Further demonstrating the growth of the market due to consumer concerns about energy, Di Blasio pointed to Nutrition Business Journal’s report that “the energy category is worth about $4.3 billion with continued growth forecast through 2022,” and their, “2019 Condition Specific Report cites [that] Millennials are especially seeking energy support, citing ‘lack of energy’ as one of the leading health issues they’re looking to manage.” Furthermore, “After overall health and wellness, energy is the primary reason consumers take a dietary supplement, according to the CRN 2019 Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements.”
When it comes to the market interested in energy-related ingredients and supplements, Di Blasio stated that today, “savvy health and wellness consumers are looking for more than just a jolt to combat physical and mental fatigue. When it comes to energy supplements, Millennials and GenXers—the category’s core audience—want natural, sustained solutions to help them stay productive and active throughout the day.”
As far as trends, OmniActive has seen several, according to Di Blasio. These include “the concept of mindfulness and emphasis on mental health, tailor-made products to support individual needs, high-quality, naturally-sourced, sustainable ingredients that are safe and effective, mind-enhancing ‘nootropic’ formulas, and brain fuel for sports and play.” The company has responded to these trends with their ingredients Xtenergy and enXtra. Di Blasio explained that Xtenergy is “sourced from green coffee (Coffea robusta) [and] provides sustained, clean energy with natural caffeine. Xtenergy’s extended-release capsule is designed with the energy consumer in mind: a steady release of caffeine to support nootropic benefits (alertness, mood and feeling less tired) without unwanted side effects like jitters or tenderness.”
Focusing on mental energy, enXtra, on the other hand, has applications “ranging from cognitive health to sports nutrition … it is a proprietary extract of Alpinia galanga, part of the ginger and turmeric family commonly used in Asian cooking. A caffeine-free alternative, this natural botanical formula is unique because it offers same-day benefits for mental alertness and focus.”
Kolb added, “Consumers are concerned about the habituation effects of caffeine [and] the decreased response to the caffeine stimulus after repeated or prolonged consumption.” He explained the positive effects of TSI’s ingredient PEAK ATP, stating that “ATP is the cell’s energy currency. The human body contains approximately 250 g of ATP and the daily ATP turnover is roughly the body’s weight, which highlights the importance of ATP as the body’s energy source … PEAK ATP improves muscle health through increasing blood flow to the exercising muscle [and] providing necessary nutrients, and by reducing fatigue, allowing athletes to perform longer at a high level, resulting in faster adaptations.”
He also noted that energy supplements, such as PEAK ATP not only provide energy, but they can increase muscle mass, strength and power. Ingredients like PEAK ATP are rising in popularity due to the fact that they mimic the body’s own natural energy source, making them safe and without the side effects that substances like caffeine create.
Mehta spotted a trend in the natural energy market related to COVID-19: “As the pandemic caused a spike in the number of gamers across the nation, we also see another group looking for a natural energy boost [besides traditional athletes and active consumers]. In connection to this, consumers are also more aware of the negative effects that come with sedentary lifestyles, including their influence on energy.” As far as ingredients that have been gaining traction, he noted that “Ingredients, like carnitine, that target the mitochondrial and ATP production have seen an increase in interest, especially among gym-goers and athletes … Capsaicin is [also] a powerful ingredient that targets existing body fat to convert it into energy through thermogenesis, helping consumers to increase their metabolic rate, which will potentially help them to both lose weight and get the boost of energy they need for improving their lifestyle.”
Another trend that Mehta noticed is that “consumers continue to increase their demand for ‘clean’ and transparent products. They want products that don’t contain sugar, opting toward alternative sweeteners, even though sugar has long been used as a source of energy. Consumers also want to know what they are putting into their bodies and expect to see clear and simple energy product labels—free from artificial or chemical-sounding ingredients—that are also transparent about how much of each specific active a product contains, especially with caffeine, so that they can make educated decisions on what they purchase. Responsible sourcing has increased in importance as well.”
In response to these several trends, Mehta explained that Unibar launched their “capsaicin extract CapZfuel, [which] is sustainably sourced from chili peppers and functions to support the natural processes of the body. We ensure that CapZfuel is one of the cleanest options available by abstaining from the use of pharmaceutical excipients that are often found in other capsaicin ingredients on the market, like methacrylate, and our proprietary process also achieves better dissolution and palatability without the use of surfactants and soothing agents.”
CapZfuel has been clinically tested to provide optimal thermogenesis support. “It works by helping to burn existing body fat, converting it into energy. By utilizing body fat as fuel, CapZfuel helps athletes to conserve muscle mass and improve endurance during aerobic and anaerobic exercise while also helping those with more sedentary lifestyles to boost their resting metabolic rate and get a natural boost of energy.”
Clearly, there are several companies which are making it their priority to respond to market trends and demands from consumers in the natural energy category. The days of using sugar and high levels of caffeine to achieve a boost that will end in a crash are seemingly beginning to end. With consumers becoming increasingly mindful of what they put into their bodies to ameliorate feelings of fatigue, it seems that the market for natural energy ingredients will continue to grow at a steady pace.
What Manufacturers Should Keep in Mind
There are a few things that manufacturers may want to keep in mind when formulating new products with natural energy ingredients. Shao related that “there are different types of consumers who are looking for different answers to manage energy. As mentioned, many people are looking for something other than caffeine to avoid the crash. At ChromaDex, it is the fact that our product and ingredient are backed by science … by educating consumers about how to age healthier and how to build resilience, it sets us apart from the competition.” Indeed, educating consumers about the ingredients and products that they are consuming is an important way to reassure them that what they are taking is safe.
McDonagh reminded manufacturers that “D-ribose optimizes the absorption and utilization of other ingredients in your formulation. Research has shown us that D-ribose helps other ingredients it is formulated with to perform better, for example, CoQ10, vitamin D or other nutrients. Bioenergy Ribose is also sourced from plants, so it fits well with the plant-forward movement and enhances aromatic amino acid generation. D-ribose is absorbed 40 times faster than glucose, so the body needs less ribose than any other carbohydrate to get the energy benefits, which could interest formulators seeking a lower caloric impact.”
Mehta noted that “supplements and energy drinks are still two of the preferred formats for energy and sports nutrition, but other formats are gaining traction. Manufacturers should consider how certain ingredients can also be incorporated into gummies and bars in addition to the traditional formats.” As mentioned earlier, for those with active and on-the-go lifestyles, it is easy to simply grab a snack on the way out the door to help them sustain energy.
The Benefits of Natural Energy Ingredients
All in all, the market for natural energy has evolved based on consumer demands for clean, fast-acting ingredients that do not involve a crash later in the day, as is often seen with traditional consumption of large amounts of caffeine in assorted beverages. More natural ingredient companies are responding to these demands and evolving the category to include innovative solutions to the problems faced by those who need an energy boost. When it comes to natural energy, it seems the best place to start is at the most microscopic level: within the cells. By using ingredients to which the body is already accustomed, the potential for negative side effects, such as crashes, is diminished. In turn, consumers can be confident that what they are taking is safe, effective and an asset to them during their busy days. Adding these ingredients to conveniently packaged and consumed products is one of the best directions for manufacturers to take according to recent trends, since many are frequently on the go. Lifestyle changes, coupled with products containing safe natural energy ingredients, can make all the difference to those facing lack of energy and fatigue in their daily lives. NIE
For More Information:
• Bioenergy Life Science, Inc., www.bioenergylifescience.com
• ChromaDex, www.chromadex.com
• OmniActive Health Technologies, www.omniactives.com
• TSI Group Ltd., www.tsigroupltd.com
• Unibar Corporation, www.unibarcorp.com