Shallow Dive: Snooze Fest

Sleep support is the next big functional claim!

A quick read of interesting titbits from the F&B universe that will drop every other week. Skim through this in less than a ☕break.

March 15 was World Sleep Day. I know I’m late – what can I say, I slept through it…

Sleep has become an important topic of conversation in the overall health dialog. Along with a healthy diet and exercise, sleep is a foundational aspect to our physical and mental wellbeing. 

Studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between how much sleep you get and the risk of developing various chronic health issues. Insufficient sleep – defined as “a curtailed sleep pattern that has persisted for at least three months for most days of the week, along with complaints of sleepiness during the day” – has been linked to 7 of the 15 leading causes of death in the US. It affects heart and circulatory health, metabolism, immunity, and the respiratory system. Sleep plays a role in your mood and supports healthy brain functioning. 

For kids, sleep is a vital part of their growth and development.   

Sleep’s impact is well beyond physical health. Insufficient sleep can impact job performance and it has a significant economic impact around the world. 

The economic costs of insufficient sleep across five OECD countries

Image source: “Why Sleep Matters – The Economic Costs of Insufficient Sleep: A Cross-Country Comparative Analysis”, RAND Health Quarterly, Pub Med 

In the US alone, fewer people said that they are getting eight or more hours of sleep. According to a December 2023 Gallup study, 57% of US adults said they would feel better if they got more sleep, while 42% said they get as much sleep as they need.

Source: Gallup poll conducted during Dec 1-20, 2023

Women in particular reported getting less sleep than men: 36% of women versus 48% of men said they get the sleep they need. And younger women were least likely to report getting adequate sleep, at 27%. 

It’s no wonder that the sleep aids market is set to explode. The global market, which covers a range of over-the-counter medications and supplements to support sleep-related disorders, is estimated to reach US$5.4 billion in 2024, according to Statista data. The US is the market leader in this category and accounts for around 40% of the total revenues. It also has a wide range of OTC options and there is a growing demand for natural and herbal sleep aids. 

F&B companies get in on the sleep action

As sleep becomes increasingly important for consumers, the use of sleep-related claims and ingredients holds significant opportunities for food and drink companies. In fact, companies the world over have been exploring this emerging functional claim across multiple categories, featuring a range of interesting ingredients. However, few new food products have had much staying power thus far.  

Milking it!

Night milk

Milk is the OG sleep food. Since the dawn of sleep issues, mothers and grandmothers have been recommending a warm glass of milk to get your zzz’s in. Milk contains the essential amino acid tryptophan, which has sleep-promoting qualities. In fact, milk harvested at night – rather boringly called “night milk” – has been found to be exceptionally high in tryptophan and melatonin as well as having anxiety-reducing benefits. 

In fact, companies have in the past attempted to market night milk but with limited success. Way back in 2015, German company Milchkristalle launched a melatonin-rich crystalline powder from night milk. The cows need to be milked between 2 am and 4 am for night milk, but because this is a change in their regular milking schedule, it results in significant stress (more than usual…) to the animals. This reduces the amount of tryptophan and melatonin produced. One solution to this was mood lighting for the cows, essentially. But this product appears to no longer be available now.

Night milk had too many barriers to take off commercially back then. But today, with the current tech at our disposal, might be worth trying again – especially if you can take the cows out of the equation. 

Crocetin + tryptophan

Other forms of milk to promote sleep are emerging with new active ingredients in addition to tryptophan. Japanese dairy major Meiji has launched (in March 2024) a new milk drink called Meiji Eye and Sleep Support W. This Foods with Functional Claims (FFC) drink contains 7.5 mg of the functional ingredient crocetin and 100 mg of tryptophan. 

Crocetin, a carotenoid from the gardenia fruit and saffron, is said to counter eye decline caused by screen time, improve depth of sleep, and relieve sleepiness and fatigue upon waking. 

Mulberry leaf extract + tryptophan

Across the pond in China, Nestlé has launched a milk powder to help improve sleep, called Yiyang Wanning, for the 40-60 year age group. A trial of 43 adults who used the powder found that time to fall asleep declined by 15%. The subjects also reported improved mood and feeling less sleepy the following day. However, the study did not show significant improvement in sleep efficiency.

This protein-rich proprietary powder contains a blend of tryptophan from whey protein concentrate, magnesium, vitamin B, zinc, and other nutrients that are said to promote the body’s melatonin secretion. Mulberry leaf extract has also been incorporated into the blend as it could reduce post-meal sugar spikes and glycemic variation, which in turn could improve sleep quality. 

Like what you’re reading?

Dinner cereal 

In early 2023, breakfast cereal major Post Holdings launched a range called Sweet Dreams, aimed at not just satisfying late-night hunger pangs, but also as being “part of a healthy sleep routine.” The cereal came in two flavors and included whole grains, a “nighttime herbal blend”, and vitamins and minerals like zinc, folic acid and B vitamins that support melatonin production. But this too failed to take off and features on the company’s webpage for discontinued products.

Treat dreams are made of these…

Ice cream and cookies

Here’s one for the “wins” column. Nightfood started in 2009 as a “sleep-friendly nighttime snack company” and had a range of ice creams, later followed by a range of cookies. The products include ingredients like slow-digesting protein, prebiotic fiber, less sugar and fat, as well as added nutrients like myo-inositol and vitamin B6. According to the company, this combination of ingredients makes their products more sleep-friendly. 

Image source: Nightfood


Another company that’s not been knocked out of the sleep arena yet is The Functional Chocolate Company, with its Sleepy Chocolate variant.  This chocolate product is said to contain botanicals like chamomile, valerian, lavender, and lemon balm along with magnesium and melatonin to help fall asleep faster and more soundly.

Ingredients with potential

A number of new ingredients are emerging with strong sleep-support functional benefits 

Probiotics: A new study published in March 2024 highlights the improved sleep benefits of a blend of four probiotic strains from Probiotical, an Italian specialized probiotics manufacturer. The study found that those who consumed this blend showed greater sleep duration and total time in bed compared to those on the placebo. 

Botanical blend: Ingredient supplier PLT Health Solutions entered the sleep solutions category with a blend of extracts of gum resin from the frankincense tree (Boswellia serrata) and ginger. This blend addresses the different aches and pains associated with poor sleep quality, especially as people get older. 

Black cumin: Another new study has found that black cumin oil extract improved short-term sleep quality of subjects in a randomized controlled trial. Those who had been given 200 mg/day of the extract for a week reported improved sleep efficiency, total sleep time, and sleep onset latency compared to those given the placebo.  

These new studies indicate that we can expect a lot of growth in ingredients that promote sleep, especially as sleep-deprived consumers look for natural aids. But at the same time, the medium for these ingredients needs to be a lot more interesting to appeal to consumers. 

I am watching this space rather keenly, especially those new milk drinks, but I would be very surprised if they were still in the market next year.

Milk may be healthy and all, but it’s super boring. For companies looking to take advantage of these new ingredients and the quest for sleep, indulgence appears to be the way to go!

That’s all folks

Thanks for reading today’s newsletter.

See you next week!

🔊 We want to hear from you! 🔊

Tell us what you thought about today’s topic, if there’s any topic you’d like us to cover, or just drop a line to say ‘hey’!

Just hit “reply” to this email. We read and answer all messages. 💌

About Us: GourmetPro is a global network of elite food and beverage industry talents. We provide fractional hiring solutions, allowing international managing directors to scale and transform their local resources and teams with high flexibility and expertise in more than 30 countries. Explore our services.

💖 And if you think someone you know might be interested in this edition of Market Shake, feel free to simply forward this email or click the button below. 💖

👉 P.S.: GourmetPro is also on LinkedIn and X!