Givaudan unveils ashwagandha infusion for mood-elevating F&B as social media buzz takes off
20 Oct 2021 --- Flavor and fragrance titan Givaudan has unveiled an ashwagandha infusion, tapping into the COVID-19-induced megatrend for mood-enhancing F&B products. The liquid extract enables easier formulation into functional foods and beverages with improved solubility and taste, taking the ingredient beyond supplements.
FoodIngredientsFirst sits down with Mieke Acda, product manager natural and nutrition at Givaudan, to discuss “the rising star of Ayurveda,” which has been increasingly adopted by social media influencers.
“We actively track social media posts, and we can see an increase in activity around ‘ashwagandha’ compared to the last three months compared to the last year.”
Most of the social media activity is focused in Europe, she reports, with the UK, Germany and the Nordics overindexing in the online buzz.
“If you ask the general population around ashwagandha, they are probably not familiar with it. But health and nutrition enthusiasts are talking about it, and these types of influencers tend to start food trends.”
Age of the influencer
Social media insights, in addition to market research, guide Givaudan to come up with the next F&B innovations.
She envisions ashwagandha as a new star in functional beverages with long-term potential to enter the mainstream as consumers become more aware of its benefits.
A survey by Givaudan Europe, North America and Asia Pacific found the top consumer associations with ashwagandha in 2020 include relaxation and mood, energy, cognition and beauty.
She also reveals that COVD-19’s impacts have led to a surge in mental health awareness, with more consumers turning to foods and beverages that can improve their mood.
Notably, “Age of the Influencer” was named a Top Ten Trend by Innova Market Insights for this year.
Overcoming formulation hurdles
The new format builds on Givaudan’s existing ashwagandha extract in its portfolio. The adaptogen has traditionally been limited to food supplements focused on stress relief, being combined with ingredients like valerian and passionflower, explains Acda.
This is because the standard format can be difficult to apply to F&B due to off-notes. It can also create some challenges regarding sedimentation.
“The new liquid extract can be labeled as a concentrated infusion, so it’s just concentrated in water, making it easy to apply in beverages,” she says.
Acda further stresses that there is plenty of room for innovation in functional drinks, which is a key focus area of Givaudan at the moment.
The company has verified the concentrate for use in both still and carbonated beverages, neutral pH waters, syrups, as well as dairy and yogurt concepts.
The double sell of functional beverages
To introduce the latest infusion, Givaudan developed a prototype beverage combining ashwagandha with flavors that are associated with stress relief.
She underscores that flavors are essential because functional beverages must “be sold twice.”
“Once for the on-pack claim with the benefits and the second time you have to sell it via the flavor.”
It contains 1.2 to 1.3% ashwagandha infusion and is complemented with pomegranate and cardamom to give a “fruity-warm type of flavor,” says Acda.
She adds that Givaudan has performed extensive market research to investigate which types of food and beverages consumers prefer to get relaxation from and what types of flavors they associate with relaxation.
This summer, Kerry also released a report on top botanicals flavors paired with mood.
How does ashwagandha work?
The exact mechanisms of action for ashwagandha are currently not known, explains Acda.
“There’s some science behind it, but there’s not a consensus on how it gives stress relief.”
She reports that there are a few different theories. “One idea is that it has an effect on the nervous system, mainly the hypothalamus.”
Other scientists mention it as an antioxidant, attributing relaxation to the reduction of free radicals.
“A newer potential mechanism emerging is that the ingredient results in a shift in the microbiome, which works on the gut-brain axis to reduce stress. They also see it may change the microbiome’s diversity.”
While there is no single mechanism, she admits that it’s likely a combination of several pathways that leads to stress relief.
Regardless of the limited science, ashwagandha has a strong story to tell with its use dating back to 6000 BCE in the Vedas, supports the company.
Reinforcing colors, flavors and fragrances
In other recent moves, Givaudan acquired DDW, The Color House, strengthening its position in natural colors as part of its 2025 strategy to expand the company’s global Taste & Wellbeing business.
The company also launched DigiPulse, an AI-powered technology to decode consumers’ online spontaneous comments about fine fragrances.
Functional ingredients are sweeping across the beverage sector, as recently spotlighted on the showfloor of Anuga 2021.
Meanwhile, the flavor house also tipped “mindful drinking” to be the next big industry movement as the alcohol reduction trend takes hold.
By Missy Green
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