Natural ingredients for improved sleep

23 Apr 2019

Consumers increasingly are seeking foods, beverages and supplements that can provide immediate results, including for improved sleep quality. Which ingredients hold the most promise?

Millennial consumers in particular have driven rising demand for natural ingredients for improved energy – and the flip side of this is a need for better sleep. According to recent research from Kerry Group, improved sleep, reduced stress and energy management have become top priorities for consumers of all ages. In a survey of 1,000 US consumers, it found that sleep was a personal health priority for 38% of respondents, but many relied on medication instead of dietary solutions, suggesting an opportunity for the food and beverage industry to provide more products with sleep benefits.

Natural ingredients for improved sleep
Chamomile is among the ingredients consumers associate with sleep benefits

Now, a number of innovative companies is targeting this area. Kemin Industries, for example, supplies a water-extracted spearmint ingredient for healthy sleep patterns, as well as for cognitive health and improved memory. Some have suggested improved sleep as a potential area of interest for those looking at the therapeutic effects of CBD, a non-psychoactive compound in cannabis. And Arjuna Natural is among those promoting ashwaghanda for its supposed benefits in promoting sleep and reducing stress.

Among consumers, there are many compounds attracting interest as potential sleep aids, including some that have little evidence to support such claims.

According to Kerry’s research, the top five ingredients that consumers perceive to support sleep are melatonin (53%), chamomile (51%), lavender (48%), valerian root (21%), and passion flower (16%). Some of their perceived benefits are based on anecdotal evidence that scientists so far have not been able to prove. A growing body of research suggests that ingredients like melatonin and valerian root, for instance, can indeed help promote sleep, and while passion flower has been less well examined, it has been shown to have a sleep-inducing effect in mice. However, two of the most common ingredients for sleep support – chamomile and lavender – have little scientific backing.

In general, botanical ingredients in foods and drinks are on the rise; according to a report from Zion Market Research, they are on track to grow at a CAGR of 3.2% from 2019 to 2025. One potential approach for food and beverage manufacturers could be to combine ingredients that consumers strongly associate with sleep benefits, with those that have the strongest evidence behind them.

When it comes to applications for sleep-promoting ingredients, beverages seem a logical target, as the market for functional drinks also has been growing rapidly, particularly among the younger consumers who are most likely to seek products for improved energy.