Mood-Enhancing Foods Gain Awareness as Consumer Demand Surges

 

  

By: David Gutierrez

A new niche in the food industry is emerging, spearheaded by the marketing of chocolate as a mood enhancer, according to a report by Frost & Sullivan.

Recent research has identified a number of the chemicals in chocolate that may contribute to its long-standing reputation as a mood enhancer, such as caffeine, theobromine, oleolethanolamine, anandamide and N-linoleoylethanolamine. All of these chemicals are neurotransmitters that have been linked to mood-stimulating effects in the brain. Chocolate also contains amino acids such as tryptophan, which stimulates production of the mood-regulating neurotransmitter serotonin, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which has been linked to decreased anxiety.

The chocolate industry has moved to cash in on this research, such as with Ezaki Glico’s “Mental Balance Chocolate GABA” line. In only the first year, the “stress reducing chocolate” product line achieved sales of $50 million.

Frost & Sullivan estimates the total market for mood-enhancing chocolate as $100 million, a 20 percent growth over 2007.

“The industry has awakened to this trend and is heavily investing in research, innovations and belligerent marketing to stay one step ahead of the game,” Frost & Sullivan said.

Other food makers, such as Scottish ice-cream company Mackie, are also seeking to capitalize on the mood food trend. Mackie began marketing a mood-enhancing ice cream in 2002, flavored with the essence of a native Alaskan orchid that is supposed to make people feel happy.

Like chocolate, ice cream contains the neurotransmitter anandamide.

Frost & Sullivan warned that mood-enhancing foods may still be only a “passing fad,” however, and that more scientific documentation of psychological benefits is needed to ensure the market’s durability. Gaining permission to make psychological health claims in Europe would be a major boon to the industry, but that would also require more scientific evidence.

“While there is abundant research backing these foods, it appears so far to be quite subjective and generalized,” the firm said.

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