The ABCs of Adaptogens: Definitions, Consumer Insights and Trends to Watch

The ABCs of Adaptogens: Definitions, Consumer Insights and Trends to Watch

Emerald Nwanne

With 87% of Americans believing that there is a mental health crisis in the United States, it is no surprise that wellness products promising relief have seen unprecedented spikes in sales. Consumers are prioritizing their mental health, and many are looking to adaptogens to improve their emotional well-being. Adaptogen supplements, drinks, and other goods are the latest trend in wellness, with global sales surging over 14% in the last year. In this guide, we’ll explain what adaptogens are and why they matter, who the adaptogen user is and future trends to watch out for.

What are Adaptogens? And Why Do They Matter?

Coined in 1947 by scientist Israel Brekhman, the term adaptogen refers to a collection of herbs, roots and mushrooms used for centuries in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine practices to treat a variety of health conditions.  

There are many products that could potentially fall under the category of an adaptogen but to be considered a true adaptogen the product must be a plant substance that:

  • Helps maintain hormonal balance  
  • Strengthens internal systems, improves performance, or sharpens focus
  • Is non-toxic when consumed in average amounts

As their name suggests, adaptogens help our bodies adapt to both physical and emotional stress. According to one peer reviewed study, adaptogens “activate certain genes that prevent cells from getting damaged from stress.” Another study suggests that they maintain effective communication “between different hormones involved in the body’s stress response.” Because of their potentially far-reaching impact, adaptogens are marketed as functional supplements to improve digestion, sleep, libido, anxiety, immunity, and metabolism.  

Adaptogen Product Examples

Adaptogen product examples

Adaptogen supplements, adaptogen powders, and even adaptogen drinks have exploded as the growing demand for adaptogen products continues to drive innovation.

Many of the products include a blend of plant substances such as: Ginseng, Ashwagandha, Holy Basil (Tulsi), Golden Root (Rhodiola) and Schisandra. There are also adaptogen mushrooms including: Cordyceps mushrooms, Reishi mushrooms, Lions Mane, and Chaga mushrooms.

While traditionally these products have been sold and taken as standalone supplements, many new adaptogen consumers are now primarily purchasing adaptogen drinks, powders, and snacks. This is a recent development, and many analysts believe that the adaptogen market is still in its infancy with “plenty of opportunities for new product development” as trends continue to develop.

Monthly search volume for the term ‘adaptogen’ has increased by 35% since October 2021 with much of that growth happening in the United States and Canada.

Consumers want to know what adaptogens are, how they can use them to feel better and which ones they should be using. In addition to adaptogens in food and beverages, there has also been a sharp uptick in the demand for skin care and beauty adaptogen products. Brands like Youth To The People have been able to take advantage of this upward trend with their “Adaptogen Deep Moisture Cream.”

Adaptogen weight loss products are also seeing an increase in demand as brands clammer to fulfill the needs of new adaptogen consumers.

Who is the adaptogen buyer?

Adaptogen Buyer Profile

Most of the conversation surrounding these products is happening on TikTok and Instagram which suggests a younger generation of taste makers is leading the charge on adaptogens. Data from Brightfield Group’s consumer trend tracker suggests that younger consumers are “embracing adaptogens to address need states of holistic wellness, relaxation, exercise, and sleep.” But is it only younger consumers who are buying adaptogens? How are different demographics interacting with adaptogen products? And who is the real adaptogen buyer?

When compared to the larger consumer population, adaptogen buyers tend to be:

  • High income - 42.5% of the population earning over $100k annually
  • Male – 56.5% of the population identifies as male
  • City dwellers – 44.9% reside in a city (more than 20% higher than the general population)
  • Highly educated – 45% have a Bachelors or Masters degree
  • Married with at least 1 kid – 71.1% have at least 1 child

Contrary to what the social trends suggest, adaptogen buyers span across generations with Millennials making most purchases. These buyers over index for the Functional Health need state which means these consumers are “adding functional ingredients to their diet to increase their overall wellness.” Functional Health need state consumers are also more likely to use functional ingredients, vitamins or supplements and use alternative therapies in place of traditional medicines.

Shifting Adaptogen Consumer Trends

The adaptogen market is rapidly evolving as more brands enter the space and compete for consumers’ attention. As larger brands enter the adaptogen market and consumers continue to incorporate adaptogens products into their daily routines, we can expect changes in trends over time.  

The last year has seen several emerging trends in the adaptogen space that may impact how new brands market their products including:

- More adaptogen consumers in suburbs and rural areas

- An increase in the percentage of Baby Boomer buyers

- A sharp increase in the number of Republican adaptogen consumers

These trends point to a larger trend of a quickly changing buyer persona. Brands will have to ensure that their messaging speaks to consumers outside of large cities. The increase in Baby Boomers and conservative buyers will also put pressure on brands to tailor their messaging to an older, less liberal consumer. This may involve more resources spent in research and development to prove health claims or more use case focused messaging.  

Adaptogen Usage by Generation

Despite their rapid growth, adaptogens represent only a small portion (less than 1%) of the American dietary supplement marketplace. With so much room for growth, the adaptogens market offers opportunities for brands capable of differentiating themselves with innovative products. Because consumers haven't yet established preferences in this niche, the adaptogens market is wide open for brands and products from all over the wellness ecosystem.

Trends such as “Dry January,” “booze-free” and “sober curious” are escalating consumer awareness of adaptogen beverages. Sales for mocktails and alcohol-free beers increased by over 30 percent year over year and show no signs of slowing down. Functional beverages, many of which include adaptogens, are also seeing continued increases in demand.

Adaptogen specific beverages, including coffee, tea, juices, and energy drinks are likely to see a boost from this uptick in consumer awareness. Although these adaptogen drinks are not (yet) being marketed as alcohol replacements, sober adaptogen drink buyers note that these products offer some of the social effects of alcohol without “the negative side effects and added health benefits.

Future Adaptogen Trends to Watch

Analysts also predict an increase in use of adaptogens in capsule supplements. Many herbal dietary supplements already use adaptogens in the formulations to “mask the odor and taste of unpleasant medicines.”

These formulations are expected to increase as consumer awareness of adaptogens grows. These formulations should also push research and development in the adaptogen space, potentially leading to even more innovative product formulations.

The passage of time and external factors will determine the growth and the scale of the adaptogen segment. In just a few years, Gen Z may take over as the main adaptogen consumer and that might change the overall trends of these products.

Additionally, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on this trend will not be fully understood for many more years. The pandemic may have artificially inflated consumption analytics or adaptogens may be here to stay.

As consumers become increasingly aware of their mental health and the importance of stress relief, they'll continue to seek out adaptogens as a means of managing stress. Research validating the benefits of these natural supplements will likely draw consumers to these products.

With so much opportunity in the adaptogen market, brands with timely consumer data will have a much easier time building consumer loyalty. evergi™ is an integrated research platform offering dynamic consumer insights, social listening, and expert analysis for emerging wellness products. Using evergi's consumer data, CPG brands and manufacturers can learn to demographic data, consumer behaviors and new product types.

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