The global COVID-19 pandemic had a marked impact on consumers’ attitudes toward health. COVID took a heavy toll on people in poor health and consumers looked for quick ways to boost their health as a defense against the disease.

Soon flying off the shelves were foods, beverages, and supplements with immune health ingredients. Understandably, this led more manufacturers to respond with even more immunity-related products. Additionally, related pandemic stress created worries about contagiousness, social isolation, interruptions in childcare and school, downturns in business, and many other factors. Not surprisingly, Innova Market Insights also saw more new product launches involving various aspects of mood improvement.

Innova Market Insights has an overarching trends framework to help us look at trends from a comprehensive perspective. Our vertical trends intelligence considers the global megatrend forces that impact industry and consumers, macrotrends in consumer lifestyles, attitudes, and consumption behavior, and key food and beverage trends. One of our macro trends involves the pursuit of health and happiness. This includes consumers taking action toward mental wellbeing, turning to nutrition to manage stress, and taking a more proactive approach to their health.

Global launch trends in new food, beverages and supplements products tracked with mood or mental health claims between 2017-2018 and 2021-2022 show compound annual growth of +18% CAGR in new supplements for brain and mood, and 8% growth in new food and beverage launches for brain health in the US.

Each fall, Innova Market Insights uses its trends framework to predict CPG trends for the upcoming year. In late 2020, well into the first year of the pandemic, we predicted that “mood” would loom large as an influencer of product launches in 2021.

We included “Mood: The Next Occasion,” among Innova’s Top Ten Trends 2021. We are not surprised to see that mood continues to impact product development in 2022, with growing numbers of products positioned for mood health benefits. “Amplified Experiences,” a Top Ten trend for 2022, recognizes the value of products as mood-elevating entertainment.

Consumers seek holistic health, including mind, body, and spirit
Consumers have developed an expanded definition of health and wellbeing. When we asked survey respondents from 11 countries about what they would include when thinking about holistic health, they named physical health, mental and emotional health, and spiritual wellbeing.

In one of our recent surveys, “to feel better about myself mentally or emotionally” was a top five reason for changing diets, named by 24% of those surveyed. Survey respondents also are interested in food and beverages to make them feel good, balanced, and happy and they say they will pay more for products with functional ingredients that confer these benefits.

It’s also fascinating to watch an evolving consumer understanding of health. Consumers tell us in recent surveys that mental wellbeing is as important as physical wellbeing. Furthermore, while consumers have come to recognize the connections between different aspects of physical health (e.g., linking gut health and immunity), they demonstrate a growing understanding that physical health is connected to mental health. In our Innova Trends Survey 2021, more than half of consumers expressed belief that gut health has a strong influence on mental health as a whole, on mood specifically, and on better sleep, which impacts mood and mental wellbeing.

Our surveys also ask consumers about the various ways that they pursue physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. Consumers use different strategies and 85% at least occasionally take action to ensure or improve their mental and emotional wellbeing. Many name exercise, with about one-third reporting that they exercise to support their mental health. Sleep and nutrition also are seen as over-arching steps toward both physical and mental wellbeing.

Evolving Food-Mood Connection

The COVID-19 pandemic elevated the importance of mental and emotional health. We see a net increase in concern about mental health issues, particularly in Latin America, UK and US, with young adult age groups reporting greater increases in levels of concern.

Participants in our Innova Health & Nutrition Survey 2021 name sleep and stress among the health issues that they were most likely to have acted on in the past year, during which COVID-19 was spreading and vaccines had not yet been developed. In the Innova Lifestyle & Attitudes Survey 2021, “I choose food & beverage to boost my mood” was the most named method to manage stress and tension during the pandemic. Consumers also chose foods and beverages to feel better about themselves and for mental focus and concentration.

We compared responses from the Innova Health & Nutrition Survey 2020, at the start of the pandemic, and the Innova Health & Nutrition Survey 2021 during the height of the COVID pandemic. In just one year, consumer focus on mental and emotional health markedly increased. Both sleep and stress relief rose in ranking as issues that consumers desired to address through diet. We also saw increased interest in brain health, especially among consumers 36-45 years of age. In contrast, concern about physical appearance dropped down the rankings, while benefits related to energy, sports and muscle development fell out of the top 10 desired functions completely.

Mood also impacts flavor trends. Innova named “Mood-lifting Flavors” to its top 10 flavor trends for 2022. Responses to Innova Flavor Survey 2022 support the connection between flavor and mood. A majority of customers agree with the statement, “Due to COVID, I am increasingly looking for food and beverages that make me feel comforted and relaxed.”

We also asked consumers how they associated different flavors are associated with particular moods. They reported choosing brown flavors such as caramel and chocolate, coffee, and fruit flavors for comfort and permissible indulgences.

Ingredients and Product Positioning

Because much of the data for brain health claims in food and beverage includes products that were formulated for cognitive health, Innova needed to develop a new list of search terms to identify label language related to mood. Words associated with positive mood connotations include “calm” and “relaxed,” as well as “focus” and “sleep.” In contrast, negative mood terminologies such as “stress” or “anxiety” are less appealing to consumers.

Global launch trends in new food, beverages and supplements products tracked with mood or mental health claims between 2017-2018 and 2021-2022 show compound annual growth of +18% CAGR in new supplements for brain and mood, and 8% growth in new food and beverage launches for brain health in the US. Like other functional benefits, we see more launch activity in supplements than in food and beverages. Among product categories, sports nutrition and beverages have the highest concentration of mood claims.

Mood benefits typically are conferred by added nutraceuticals and functional ingredients rather than by whole foods. Among ingredients with the highest penetration in food and beverage and supplement launches with a brain-mood positioning, cannabis/CBD (also for immune support), collagen, and probiotics (as a mood regulator) are fastest growing.

Survey respondents also are interested in food and beverages to make them feel good, balanced, and happy and they say they will pay more for products with functional ingredients that confer these benefits.

CBD has been legalized as an additive in countries such as Canada and parts of the US but CBD ingredients and products cannot contain the psychoactive component THC. Innova Market Insights also sees growth in “adaptogen” and “nootropic” as descriptive terms for mood-enhancing ingredients.

Vitamins and minerals have important roles. In particular, magnesium is gaining attention when combined with ashwagandha in the area of “calm-and relax” products. Ashwagandha is an on trend ingredient and is seeing fast growth. One industry supplier recently unveiled an ashwagandha infusion – and is tapping into the COVID-19-induced megatrend for mood-enhancing food and beverage products. Saffron is becoming more widely used to improve mood.

Go for the Gut!

The gut-brain axis and the role of the gut in mental health is increasingly recognized. As a result, manufacturers are combining gut health and mental health in single products. Gut health claims also are becoming more focused.

Innova sees faster growth in specific combinations of claims related to probiotic ingredients plus brain health; or prebiotic ingredients plus brain health. These are growing more than claims of general digestive/gut health plus brain and mental health. In particular, this reflects consumers’ growing recognition of the broader benefits of probiotic and prebiotic ingredients, with 25% growth in launches with probiotic and brain health claims and 10% growth in launches with prebiotic and brain health. (% CAGR 2017-2018 to 2021-2022, 12-month periods ending Q1)

One active leader is Uplift Food, Brooklyn, N.Y., which offers a range of prebiotic snacks positioned on a dual “gut-and-mood” health platform. CEO Kara Landau, an accredited practicing dietitian (Australia’s version of a registered dietitian), fills the company’s website with scientific articles and observations supporting links between the gut and mental wellbeing. There also are testimonials from dietitians, professors and doctors.

Innova Market Insights expects continued activity in launches of foods, beverages, and supplements that are tailored to specific mental health benefits. That’s because consumers are increasingly looking for ways to feel better through their diets, there’s ongoing research into the functionality of various food components, and the lines are becoming increasingly blurred between food ingredients and pharmaceuticals.

Lu Ann Williams is Global Insights Director at Innova Market Insights, provider of market research services including the Innova Database. With more than 25 years’ experience in the food industry, Lu Ann is a trend expert and frequent public speaker at events worldwide. She leads a team of analysts and works with global clients. Contact her at