Dandelion herbal teas and coffee substitutes are one of the bitter herbs in demand in the specialist channel.

A recent SPINS research Trend Watch looked at some emerging but lesser-known botanical herbs and highlighted Dandelion, Wormwood, Ginger, Reishi and Turmeric and other herbs in the US health food marketplace.

At the 2017 International Herb Symposium held (HIS) in Norton, MA, speaker Richard Mandelbaum RH discussed the benefits of bitter herbs beyond traditional digestive applications.

SPINS said it has kept an eye on the growing role of bitters in the marketplace since 2004, as bitters have moved into new formulations and product segments.

"SPINS senior natural products researcher Veronica Eckl learned more at IHS and shares insights from Mandelbaum's talk, as well as a few of her favourite products and trends, tracking the evolving role of herbal bitters in current food culture, and looking into SPINS data," SPINS research said.

"While the term bitters conjures up images of dandelion blooms, ginger roots, and wormwood leaves, at IHS, Mandelbaum highlighter the lesser-known bounty of botanicals with a range of benefits outside the scope of digestive aid.

"These herbs are associated with nervine, cardiovascular and respiratory properties as well as whole body support benefits, stimulating bitter taste receptors outside the digestive system."

In total food and beverage segments, Dandelion has grown by 7.1 per cent; Wormwood has grown 8.2 percent in vitamin and homeopathic segments; Ginger has jumped by 223.3 percent in the functional beverage segment, and by 19.7 per cent in total food and beverage segments.

Reishi has grown by 19.6 per cent in in vitamin and homeopathies, by 50.3 percent in total food and beverages, and by 48.3 percent in functional beverages.

UK based tea manufacturer Pukka offers a variety of blends with bitters. The firm successful organic brand was sold to Unilever in 2017

Turmeric grew by 37.1 percent in in vitamin and homeopathies, by 43.5 percent in total food and beverages, and by 25.2 percent in functional beverages (SPINSscan Natural and Specialty Gourmet (proprietary), SPINScan Conventional Multi Outlet (powered by IRI), 52 weeks ending 2017-May-21).

According to Mandelbaum, the constituents of these herbs act on our taste receptors in complex ways. Cocktails, coffees, cordials, and teas have all benefited from the addition of bitters. Some bitter botanicals have already made their way into the mainstream, such as cacao, reishi (along with other medicinal mushrooms), and turmeric. There are many ways to consume these bitter substances in our daily lives – either with food or drink or by themselves.

Mandelbaum also spoke about blue vervain, elecampane, and motherwort – lesser-known bitter herbs that have historical association with nervine benefits and tension relief. He also highlighted cacao and gingko for cardio-vascular support and soothing mental benefits.