Whether you’re a hardworking college student, busy professional, or just someone looking for an edge, nootropic beverages offer an attractive promise—a brain boost.
As consumers continue to demand more functionality from their favorite drinks, brands are taking note. Driven by health trends prioritizing all aspects wellness—including mood, cognitive performance, and mental health—brands are exploring creative beverage solutions with benefits that extend beyond those important to physical fitness.
While still a fairly new category, nootropic beverages are emerging as an exciting frontier in the functional beverage realm—and one that is expected to reach more than $7 billion in value by 2025. But what exactly are nootropics? Here’s what you need to know:
Nootropics: What Are They?
While you may have only just started paying attention to the term recently, as a class of ingredients, nootropics are not new—in fact, the term was coined by Romanian psychologist and chemist, Corneliu E. Giurgea, who in 1972 used it as a “catch-all” to describe brain productivity enhancers.
Today we understand nootropics in much the same way; as substances thought to be linked to improved performance. Nootropic ingredients are used to enhance focus and memory, boost energy, and even elevate mood. Historically, nootropics have been primarily utilized in the development of drugs and health supplements, not beverages—but that seems to be changing.
Nootropics & The Beverage Industry
It’s important to note that some nootropic ingredients are already well-known and widely adopted in the beverage space—and have been for years! L-theanine, for example, is a compound naturally derived from tea that improves retention, recall, relaxation, and mood. Or perhaps you’ll recognize caffeine and its nootropic effects—focus and alertness—more immediately.
Of course, other nootropic ingredients have been slower to trickle into the sector and they’re why consumers have taken notice of the category, overall. Medicinal mushrooms (like reishi, chaga, and Lion’s Mane) are great illustrations of emerging ingredients that are making their way into a variety of drinks, thanks to a variety of adaptogens and antioxidants providing a powerhouse of cognitive and mental wellness benefits.
Building from the “Functional Plus” trend, a growing subculture of consumers have been experimenting with combinations of different nootropic ingredients—called “stacks”—which are believed to deliver a variety of benefits when paired. Supported by consumers’ continued interest in custom beverages and personalized nutrition, this may signal an opportunity for producers to create specialized blends of nootropic drinks that cater to this emerging market.
Developing a Nootropic Beverage
As the functional sector of the beverage industry continues rapid-fire growth, nootropics are being added to beverages of all kinds. From chocolate milk “elixirs” supporting immunity and “balance” to energy drinks designed to promote focus and alertness without the jittery side effects—the possibilities are endless, though not seamless. Here’s what we mean:
Whenever functional claims are involved, the regulatory landscape can be a challenge to navigate. If you’re interested in bringing your own nootropic drink to market, you’ll need to make sure it is formulated for success and labeled appropriately.
“Beverages cannot make health claims, so the marketing language you might use on a so-called ‘nootropic beverage’ is pretty limited,” says Flavorman’s Director Beverage Architect, Kristen Wemer. “Many of the claims associated with nootropics can be construed as health or structure-function claims, which we would advise against putting on a beverage.”
Of course, you can still make a beverage with ingredients that imply or are known by consumers to offer nootropic benefits—that’s often how brands accomplish this without making claims.
A beverage you might drink to relax could include lavender, passionflower, GABA, and lemon balm. Each of these ingredients are GRAS and allowed in a beverage, and you can highlight that the beverage contains them with hopes that a consumer will understand what they’re in there for—but the more explicit you get about the potential functionality of those ingredients, the higher risk there is that it will be construed as a health or structure-function claim.
As brands continue to pack their drinks full of functional ingredients, beverage builders have their work cut out for them to ensure these beverages can also achieve a desired mouthfeel and flavor profile while delivering on anticipated benefits.
“The functional beverage category has become increasingly complex over the last several years,” says Wemer. “Beverage developers are being asked to formulate drinks loaded with beneficial ingredients, each of which come with their own set of formulation challenges.”
“At Flavorman, we custom create our clients’ beverages, including each flavor that goes into their drink,” says Flavorman’s Chief Flavorist, Tom Gibson. “As a flavorist, I work alongside the beverage development team to create flavors that taste great while being compatible with trending ingredients.”
Our experts can formulate your nootropic beverage with flavors that emphasize the presence of any functional ingredients, while ensuring the integrity of the drink’s quality. And while our expertise is specialized in beverage development, our team boasts the resources, services, and industry connections you’ll need to make your nootropic beverage idea a success. From start through finish®, that’s the Flavorman promise.
If you’re going to launch a beverage brand, make sure you do it right the first time. When you’re ready to talk about your idea for a breakthrough nootropic beverage, give us a call at (502) 273-5214 or get started by telling us your story here.
To learn more about how Flavorman can help you change what the world is drinking, see our process.