Few areas of human functioning can boast the widespread application of cognitive health. From prenatal and early childhood development, through academia and career, and on into aging gracefully, the brain is central to life’s endeavors.
Despite this fact, it can be difficult to attract consumers to cognitive health products before their senior years, when the expectation and symptoms of mental decline typically surface. According to Brenda Fonseca, global technical manager, cognition, Kemin Human Nutrition and Health, one of the biggest challenges is “engaging consumers on understanding the role of brain health products in maintaining and preserving brain health and cognitive function throughout the lifespan as part of a healthy lifestyle and not as just a quick fix."
Lynda Doyle, vice president of global marketing at OmniActive Technologies, agreed, noting education and product positioning are vital so consumers don’t have false expectations. “Supplements for brain health are like taking a multivitamin—the effects in healthy populations may only be apparent after long-term supplementation. This has been the stumbling block for most consumers looking for an immediate ‘brain boost’ similar to what they experience when taking caffeinated products," she said.
Although acknowledging consumer acceptance is a challenge, Bob Capelli, a consultant with BGG, remained optimistic, noting, “As more clinical studies are done and more PR is generated over the coming years, this will inevitably become a non-issue."
Bryan See, regional product manager, ExcelVite, also pointed to the importance of research. “Many ingredients tout brain health benefits, yet many do not produce the science needed to substantiate those claims." He added it can be challenging for manufacturers to “identify a true neuroprotective ingredient that has supporting human studies, that at the same time, meets safety standards, and is bioavailable."
Considering that many cognitive health products are targeted toward older populations, Hartley Pond, senior vice president of technical sales, FutureCeuticals Inc., added it can also be difficult finding healthy subjects to participate in clinical research.
Designing and conducting the right clinical trials to support a product's effectiveness is also a factor. “The brain is a complex organ, and many neurodegenerative conditions progress over time, making it very difficult and costly to perform the right study," said Cosimo Palumbo, area manager North America for Indena. “Another challenge will be to increase consumer awareness for natural products as effective options for healthy brain function."
These obstacles aside, Capelli stated, “The brain health market for supplements is poised to explode over the next 10 years as more Baby Boomers become senior citizens and consumer acceptance of using supplements to combat neurological decline attains new heights."
Palumbo echoed his sentiments. “With the aging population and increase in neurodegenerative conditions, the market for brain health products will grow. Already there's been an increase in the number of natural products making claims for brain health," he said, adding, “The NEXT Trend Database reported the growth of brain health claims by 187 percent as reported in the recent 2015 Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ) Supplement Report."
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