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Discover how nootropic supplements can enhance your focus, memory, and mood. As our population ages, the demand for cognitive health solutions is skyrocketing. Dive into the growing market of brain-boosting supplements valued at up to $9.6 billion, and see how they can benefit you.

What Are Nootropics? Exploring Benefits and Market Trends

What are nootropic supplements? Today the term refers to dietary supplements, synthetic compounds, or prescription drugs that promote cognition — anything from focus, attention, learning, memory, mood, and more.

However you categorize ingredients in this category — nootropics, brain health, or cognitive health — the fact is that the world’s population is becoming increasingly older. In fact, in the U.S., older adults (people 65 years of age and older) are expected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history by 2034.[1]

Nutraceutical business owners have been jumping on the nootropics bandwagon. The brain-boosting supplements market is currently valued between $7.68 and $9.6 billion and is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.8 percent and 15 percent.[1]

Globally, the nootropics market is projected to reach $15.5 to $29 billion by the end of the decade. While online direct-to-consumer (D2C) nootropic sales account for the most rapid growth, retail sales still account for a majority of the market share.

According to a SPINS report, The State of Natural [2], the following cognitive-health supplement sales increases (and decreases, in one case) were recently observed:

  • Bacopa monnieri grew by 147.6 percent
  • Phosphatidyl serine grew by 108.9 percent
  • DMAE grew by 103.8 percent
  • Gingko biloba grew by 18.2 percent
  • Mushrooms grew by 10.6 percent
  • DHA fell by 11.7 percent

Data from SPINS suggest we should also keep an eye on these upward-bound movers: acetyl-L-carnitine, huperzine A, and L-theanine.

More recent findings cited by Nutraingredients-USA in April 2024 [3] additionally identified ashwagandha and lemon balm for mood and sleep support and B vitamins for energy.

The Nutraingredients-USA article additionally emphasized the concept of “stacking” — the strategic combination of different nootropic ingredients to simultaneously address multiple areas of cognitive health — which is a fast-growing consumer preference.

 

What Are Nootropics and Do They Work?

Major advances in understanding cognitive enhancers occurred in the 1960s, including the work of the Romanian psychologist and chemist Corneliu Giurgea who referred to compounds that enhance learning and memory as nootropics.[4]

Taking its name from the Greek words for mind and bend or turn, the subsequent 60-plus years have witnessed a continued effort to find the perfect “mind bender” — cognitive enhancer — to improve cognitive health.

Consumers often wonder: what are natural nootropics, what are the safest nootropics and what are the side effects of nootropics?

Unlike traditional stimulants that cause a significant boost in alertness along with a subsequent crash, safe nootropic dietary supplements are intended to support cognitive functions in a more balanced and sustained way. They are sought after by a wide range of consumers, from students and professionals seeking better focus and productivity to older adults wanting to maintain cognitive function as they age.

Nootropic supplements work through various mechanisms to support and enhance cognitive function. Different nootropics may employ different methods, including:

  • Improving the brain’s supply of glucose and oxygen: Some nootropics enhance blood flow to the brain, increasing the availability of glucose and oxygen, which are critical for energy production and overall brain function.
  • Protecting brain cells from neurotoxicity: Certain nootropics have neuroprotective properties, safeguarding brain cells from damage caused by toxins, oxidative stress, and inflammation.
  • Positively affecting the body’s stress response system: By modulating the body’s response to stress, nootropics can help maintain cognitive function under stress, potentially reducing anxiety and improving focus.
  • Increasing the available amounts of neurotransmitters: Some nootropics boost levels of key neurotransmitters, such as acetylcholine, which is crucial for memory and learning, or dopamine, which plays a role in motivation and pleasure.

It’s worth noting that most nootropics do not produce immediate effects. Instead, they typically require consistent, long-term use to achieve noticeable results. The benefits are often cumulative, gradually enhancing cognitive functions over time. As a supplement brand owner, you need to understand this to effectively communicate it on your product packaging and marketing materials.

As consumers are increasingly looking for more natural solutions — clean-label products with dietary supplement ingredients and without synthetic colors or preservatives, they are finding a range of natural nootropics.

 

Natural Nootropics

 

Botanicals

  • Ashwagandha—Used to support cognition and improve mood.
  • Ginkgo biloba—May support cognition and reduce stress.
  • Ginseng—Used to support healthy memory and mood.
  • Gotu kola—May improve cognition and reduce both anxiety and stress.
  • Guarana—Used to support focus and learning.
  • Holy basil—May reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Lion’s mane mushroom—Used to reduce anxiety and protect the brain in the elderly.

 

Amino Acids, Vitamins, and Other Compounds

 

  • L-theanine—May increase calm and support creativity.
  • Creatine—Supports short-term memory and reasoning and reduces stress.
  • Caffeine—May increase alertness, attention, and reaction times.
  • Magnesium—Has been shown to support a healthy sleep cycle.
  • Vitamin B12—Needed for thinking and keeping the nervous system healthy.
  • Vitamin E—May support cognition.

 

What Are the Benefits of Nootropics?

While individual experiences with nootropics can vary, they are not a quick fix for cognitive issues. Nootropics should be used with healthy lifestyle practices, including adequate sleep, regular exercise, and a balanced diet. When integrated into a holistic approach to brain health, nootropic supplements can offer several potential benefits:

  • Enhancing memory and learning: Nootropics can support the formation and retrieval of memories, making it easier to learn new information and remember past experiences.
  • Improving focus and concentration: By stimulating neurotransmitter activity and reducing distractions, nootropics can help users maintain focus on tasks for extended periods.
  • Increasing mental clarity and alertness: Certain nootropics boost cognitive functions that help clear brain fog, resulting in greater mental clarity and sustained alertness.
  • Boosting creativity and problem-solving abilities: Some nootropics enhance cognitive flexibility, allowing for more creative thinking and improved problem-solving.
  • Reduced brain fog and fatigue: By bolstering overall brain health and energy metabolism, nootropics can reduce feelings of mental fatigue and improve cognition.

These benefits make nootropics an attractive option for individuals looking to enhance their cognitive abilities and maintain mental sharpness throughout the day. However, users need to manage their expectations and recognize that nootropics are part of a broader strategy for cognitive health, rather than a standalone solution.

 

Why Supplement Brands Should Consider Developing Nootropic Products

As noted, the market for nootropic supplements is experiencing significant growth, presenting a lucrative opportunity for supplement brand owners.

Several factors contribute to the rising interest in cognitive enhancers. These include the need for better mental performance in competitive academic and professional environments, the pursuit of healthy aging, and the desire for improved mental clarity and reduced stress. The potential target audiences for nootropic supplements are diverse, including:

  • Students: Seeking improved focus, memory, and learning capabilities to excel in their studies.
  • Professionals: Looking to enhance productivity, creativity, and problem-solving skills in high-stress work environments.
  • Health-conscious individuals: Aiming to maintain or improve cognitive function as part of an overall wellness regimen.
  • Athletes and gamers: Looking for improved reaction times and mental focus.
  • Mature adults: Adults 50+ wanting to support cognitive health and physical health.

 

What to Consider When Developing a Nootropic Supplement

Consulting with supplement formulation design experts can provide valuable insights into creating a well-thought-out and effective product. These professionals can help you identify synergistic ingredient combinations and optimal dosages to maximize efficacy while ensuring safety.

Selecting the appropriate delivery method for your nootropic supplement is another important consideration. Common forms include:

  • Capsules: Offer precise dosing and are convenient for daily use, though they may have slower absorption rates compared to liquids.
  • Chewable tablets: Provide an enjoyable, chewable option with quicker absorption, and faster production lead times for gummies, allowing you to go to the market with your product faster. Unlike capsules, chewable tablets are perfect for consumers who have difficulty swallowing. Lastly, they offer the ability to deliver actives/ingredients that may be sensitive to heat or moisture.
  • Powders: Ensure rapid absorption and are easy to mix with beverages but may require various taste variations to get it right. Partnering with a powder supplement manufacturer with a team of flavor scientists is advisable.

Using high-quality ingredients and conducting third-party testing is essential to guarantee product safety, purity, and efficacy. It is also important to consider the potential interactions with medications or the presence of certain health conditions, highlighting the need for clear labeling and consumer education.

 

Regulatory Compliance Considerations When Developing a Nootropic Supplement

Occasionally, supplements formulated to promote memory, cognition, and mood attract regulatory scrutiny.

This is why labeling, packaging, and marketing should always recommend that consumers consult their licensed healthcare practitioner before adding new supplements to their self-care regime.

It’s important, therefore, for you to work with a leading supplement contract manufacturer who will ensure that every aspect of your project — from the ingredients used in your formula and the actual manufacturing process to the packaging and storage of your product complies with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) regulations mandated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Q. How big is the natural nootropics market?

The brain-boosting supplements market is valued between $7.68 and $9.6 billion and is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 7.8 percent and 15 percent. Globally, the nootropics market is projected to reach $15.5 to $29 billion by the end of the decade.

Q. What are the best nootropics for memory?

Some examples of nootropics that support memory are B vitamins, Bacopa monnieri, caffeine, creatine, DMAE, Ginkgo biloba, Lion’s mane, L-theanine, omega-3s, Panax ginseng, phosphatidylserine, and Polygonum minus extract (kesum), PQQ, Rhodiola rosea, sage leaf extract, silk protein hydrolysate, and water-soluble citicoline.

Q. Can nootropics help with anxiety?

Yes, some science-backed nootropics have been shown to offer anxiety-reducing benefits.

Q. Is ashwagandha a nootropic?

Yes, it is an adaptogenic nootropic.

Q. Are nootropic supplements safe?

Dietary supplements, including nootropics, have a wide safety window compared to other categories of FDA-regulated ingestible products. Nevertheless, consumers should consult with their licensed healthcare practitioners regarding which supplements they are taking.

Q. Are there any FDA-approved nootropics?

The FDA does not approve dietary supplements. As to Authorized Health Claims for nutrients, none of the authorized claims relate to cognition.

Q. What is “nootropic stacking”?

Nootropic stacking refers to the strategic combination of different nootropic ingredients to simultaneously address multiple areas of cognitive health, which is a fast-growing consumer preference.

 

Conclusion

For over 45 years, nutraceutical brand owners have trusted Vitaquest for all their supplement contract development and manufacturing needs. Today, we create and produce over 4,000 customized formulas for 500+ brands globally.

In addition to best-in-class custom manufacturing, we provide turnkey packaging design and supplement fulfillment services. Finally, our expertise in particle creation, modification and manufacturing using fluid bed, oscillation, and roll compaction technologies is second to none.

To learn more about how we can help you create a high-quality nootropic supplement, call 800-526-9095 to speak with one of our knowledgeable Vitaquest sales executives or to request a competitive nutraceutical manufacturing price quote if you already have your project requirements prepared.

 

References

  1. Gormley J. Minding the store: The brain-health category reigns supreme. Vitamin Retailer. December 1, 2022. 
  2. SPINS. The State of Natural 2021 
  3. Hancocks N. Top tips for cognitive health innovation. Nutraingredients-USA. April 25, 2024.
  4. Arce E, Ehlers MD. The mind bending quest for cognitive enhancers. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2017 Feb;101(2):179–181.
Lauren Samot, Commercial Innovation Leader at Vitaquest
Lauren
Samot, RD
Commercial Innovation Leader

With over 7 years at Vitaquest, Lauren Samot’s journey from Technical Services Associate to her current role as Commercial Innovation Leader exemplifies her dedication and growth. Leading the innovation team, she fuels business expansion through collaborative efforts across sales, product development, and operations. With a decade-long career in nutraceuticals, Lauren excels in manufacturing, raw materials, and product development. A Vitaquest Proud Champion Award recipient, she holds a B.S. in Nutritional Science with a minor in Public Health from Boston University and is an accomplished Registered Dietitian and member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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