21 May 2021
This week: If you’re a food & bev brand – what’s the next frontier? Move over adaptogens, hello psilocybins.
Feels like everywhere you look these days, there's a shroomy shroom shroom. They’re showing up in skincare, being turned into leather, and are either ingested or invested in by seemingly everyone in Silicon Valley.
• 50% of retailers have upped their offering of mushroom products in the past year, per trend forecaster WGSN. The global functional mushroom market is currently worth around $23 billion, and steady growth is in the forecast.
• Medicinal mushrooms are often hailed for their adaptogenic properties. But WTF are adaptogens, you ask? Not to go full Amanda-Chantal-Bacon, but they’re plants that supposedly help protect the body from stress. And just to take things to the next level, there’s rising demand for natural nootropics, aka “brain boosting” supplements. (Giants like Nestle and Unilever are also upping their stakes in the wellness game).
• “After successfully traveling through the niche wellness-to-mainstream pipeline, mushrooms are set to get more 'magical' with the prospect of wider legalization of psychedelics,” reported Glossy. Don’t get too excited – magic mushrooms are still banned pretty much everywhere except a handful of countries. But with psilocybin, the consciousness-expanding compound, the subject of an increasing number of studies around treating depression and PTSD – psychedelics might be closer to legit monetisation than we think.
While there are plenty of concerns surrounding for-profit psychedelic startups, we’re all for the mainstreaming of mushrooms.
GOOD MOOD SUPERFOOD
Fancy some lion’s mane in your latte? A sprinkle of ashwagandha on that appetiser?
48% of millennials want their food and drinks to contribute to both mental and physical health, according to market research firm Mintel.
• During a once-in-century pandemic, it makes a whole lotta sense that we’re fixated on wellbeing. It’s what prompted a collab between Whole Foods and meditation app Headspace. “During a year of converging crisis… a slew of new brands emerged, promising stress support through science-backed blends of calming herbs, roots, mushrooms and more. The founders of these startups are forging a new segment in the $78 billion functional food and beverage market. The good mood food movement,” reported Food Business News.
• “The beverage marketplace, known for wild experimentation, is in the midst of an innovation renaissance,” noted Kenneth Hein in The Drum. From zero-alcohol to CBD-infused, nootropics (that word again) to “adaptonics” – it’s a crazy drinks world out there. “We think health and wellness-focused consumption will stick. So we have to find new ways to develop relevant formats made of our core ingredients,” said Larry Bodner, CEO of Bulletproof Coffee – which was hailed as a leader in the creepily named “biohacking boom” when it emerged on the scene nearly a decade ago.
• Given that you have to, uh, taste the product – food & bev brands are a natural pairing with physical retail. Texas-based Neighborhood Goods, which bills itself as a new type of department store, just launched The Marketplace for this very purpose: featuring fetchingly packaged snacks such as Karma Nuts and Dada Daily. “For so many of these brands, customers became aware of them through fleeting moments on Instagram… we saw the opportunity to reframe these products in a more social context,” said CEO Matt Alexander.
For Emily Schildt, founder of Pop Up Grocer, she describes the concept as a “space in which those [curated] brands have meaningful visibility… Think: shoppable grocery museum.” Among the trends she’s ID’d for this year? Immunity-supporting ingredients, like adaptogenic mushrooms.
Which brings us full-circle to the fungus among us, and the mushroom moment at large. “Maybe we are drawn to mushrooms because we think of them as some higher power,” observed Andrea Hernandez, an F&B trend analyst.
Before you dismiss the idea of mushroom worship, some scholars even believe that they’re linked to the origin of all religions.
Spirituality on shrooms? We’re ready for that trip.
Words by Amy Tai, creative consultant and native New Yorker now based in London.