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Innovative ingredients are hitting the mainstream market

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Jen Johnston

Ingredient trends come and go, and sometimes they have staying power. This year, five ingredients have been on my radar — elderberry, coconut oil, charcoal, melatonin and CBD.

In Europe, elderberry has been used for centuries, but in the U.S. it’s been slower to gain traction, partly due to the virus that nearly decimated the plant during the 1950s and ’60s. Elderberry had been used in alternative healing circles for many years and could be widely found in the aisles of natural food stores.

However, this immune-supporting herb began taking off during 2017. The American Botanical Council cited the larger-than-average 2016-2017 flu season as the catalyst.

Pinterest’s 100 for 2019 Report showed a 685% increase in pins about elderberry recipes over 2018. Brands such as Sambucol from PharmaCare US and Sambucus by Nature’s Way have enjoyed popularity at niche natural retailers. Now chains are seeing the value of elderberry, and consumers can find the products widely distributed.

Elderberry is at the very early stages of bleeding into other categories. So far, e-commerce brands such as Delizioso with its Elderberry Hair Balancing Shampoo and Conditioner, and Keller Works, with its elderberry soap, are distributing personal care products with the herb. But with the growing popularity I would not be surprised to see mainstream manufacturers following suit, perhaps even with an elderberry toothpaste or wound care item.

Another ingredient in its heyday is coconut oil. The darling of the “healthy fats” movement, coconut oil was propelled into the limelight by the Keto and Paleo lifestyles.

When the Ayurvedic practice of oil pulling hit the mainstream, wellness consumers began associating coconut oil with oral health. Today you will find coconut oil toothpaste from natural brands including JASON and Dessert Essence, along with mainstream legacy brands Crest and Colgate, which have each recently come out with coconut oil toothpastes that boast a whitening benefit.

E-commerce stores such as walmart.com sell an array of coconut oil skin and hair products, from such brands as OGX, Queen Helene, Palmers and OKAY. Many of the products also appear in their brick-and-mortar ­locations.

Charcoal is also seeing a resurgence of popularity across multiple categories. Two growing areas for charcoal are deodorants and oral care. Schmidt’s Naturals, acquired by Unilever in 2017, offers a charcoal and magnesium natural deodorant that is sold at Target Corp., Walmart and other chains. On the conventional side, Dove Men + Care Elements Charcoal Antiperspirant provides men with 48 hours of sweat and odor protection.

The Hello Activated Charcoal oral care line, available at such stores as Ulta and CVS Pharmacy, includes toothpaste and mouthwash. Implements are another area of innovation, with such brands as Oral-B offering a Charcoal Whitening Therapy Toothbrush.

Outside of oral care, Yes To was the first to launch charcoal in such forms as facial wipes and masks. The acne segment has seen charcoal innovations as well, with Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask to Clear Pores. And even pain relief is adopting charcoal solutions, as in the e-commerce product Black Ice Medicated Patches from Carbon Biotech.

Even the digestive health category contains charcoal products, such as Charco Caps Anti-Gas Formula. And while we’re discussing gas, there is an independent, online brand making “flatulence deodorizer” pads containing charcoal that are worn in the underwear called Flat-D.

Melatonin itself is not new; however, the popularity of the sleep ingredient is now pushing the boundaries of form and category. Consumers can take melatonin as a spray, capsule, dropper or gummy. Children, too, can benefit, with Zarbee’s Naturals offering children’s sleep gummies and tablets, and Procter & Gamble Co. expanding its line of Vicks ZzzQuil sleep aids to include melatonin gummies for children.

Categories such as cold and allergy are seeing melatonin cross over, as in Luden’s Melatonin Soothers throat drops, which were released in 2018. And for those who don’t like to swallow pills, breakthrough brand Solves Strips offers quick-dissolving melatonin strips. Google Trend information shows searches for melatonin steadily increasing over the last 10 years, with no slow-down in sight.

Earlier this year, cbdMD, a Level Brands company, launched its CBD sleep aid, CBD PM, which includes melatonin and CBD, another breakthrough ingredient. While the use of CBD as an ingredient in traditional over-the-counter categories is on the brink of exploding, shifting regulation has kept many companies from releasing products.

CBD is popping up as an ingredient in lotions, hair care products, makeup, bath bombs and more. A joint research brief by Linkage Research and Hamacher Resource Group showed that 14% of consumers already buy skin care products with CBD in them, and an additional 40% want to start buying them.

Understanding this trend, CVS and Walgreens began carrying topical CBD products in their stores this year, and the products are also widely available online.

Keeping on top of ingredient trends is good for brands and retailers alike. The ingredients outlined above are poised for growth..

Jen Johnston is an industry researcher and writer with Hamacher Resource Group Inc. (HRG).


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