Eating and Drinking in The Anxiety Economy

December 2022

The modern consumer confronts a world that is highly stressful. With few signs that this will change anytime soon, responding to consumer stress levels is of the utmost priority to functional products throughout the food and beverage space. This report will examine the challenges and possibilities of operating in what can be called “The Anxiety Economy.”

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This report comes in PPT.

Key Findings

The global consumer’s default state in the 2020s will be one of anxiety

The structure of modern life makes people anxious. Traditional institutions where people have historically anchored themselves are breaking down, while the internet perpetuates a general sense that the world is chaotic. In this environment, it should be assumed that the average consumer is now highly stressed as a default setting.

A vast and amorphous “anxiety economy” has sprung up to address this

With consumers so stressed, consumer packaged goods companies have rushed in to offer products that promise to help provide an elusive sense of calm. The boundaries of this “anxiety economy” are ill-defined, but clearly food and beverages sit at the core of it. This includes both explicitly targeted functional products, as well as a wider range of products used for stress relief, without necessarily being designed for this.

“Stress eating” will need a new meaning, one that more strongly emphasises naturally healthy products and new ingredients

Evolving understanding of the relationship between mental health and food consumption provides plenty of possibilities for the food market to operate in the anxiety economy in a helpful way. Particularly important will be a greater emphasis on naturally healthy products, although fortification in the form of adaptogens will also be of great importance.

Beverages will combine traditional and cutting-edge categories

Herbal teas have served anti-anxiety purposes for centuries, and remain the dominant force in stress-relief beverages. However, they are increasingly challenged by newer products in the functional space. Functional soft drinks are the most prominent, but the emerging “no/low” alcohol space is increasingly moving in as well.

Eating and Drinking in the Anxiety Economy: Key findings
A pervasive sense of anxiety is a defining feature of the modern world
The modern era is pervaded by a sense of permanent crisis
The burden of anxiety falls most heavily upon the young
“The Anxious Twenties” are far more likely than a new “Roaring Twenties”
What is the Anxiety Economy?
The boundaries of the Anxiety Economy within the wider array of need states are porous
Food and beverages will be part of an “all of the above” approach by consumers
“Food as medicine” is gaining acceptance, including in the stress relief space
The ethical considerations of marketing in this segment are critical
Food in the Anxiety Economy: Future directions
Food as stress relief: Reframing the narrative
Stress relief will be wrapped into the larger debate on processing of food
Gut health is an area where few have drawn the connection yet to mental health
Possibilities in ingredients by functional positioning
Specific adaptogens will come to the fore and gain recognition for effectiveness
Regulatory problems are keeping CBD out of food and drink products
Possibilities in ingredients: The case of magnesium
Case Study: Toodaloo Adaptenogenic Trail Mix
Drinking in the Anxiety Economy: Three segments to keep an eye on
Herbal teas are the currently dominant force in stress relief
The “no/low” spaces opens up a range of new possibilities for stress relief
The europhic moment has yet to arrive
“Health and wellness” alcohol is a dead end
The “caffeine paradox” further exacerbates anxiety issues
Coffee replacements: Muddying the waters?
Lurching from being very energised to very relaxed
Psychedelics will play an ever larger role in the anxiety-fighting conversation
Conclusion: Looking ahead at an anxious decade

Alcoholic Drinks

Alcoholic drinks is the aggregation of beer, wine, spirits, cider/perry and RTDs.

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