Companies across the world are tuning into personalised nutrition with startups leading the charge in taking technology just one step ahead. From tailored-to-you drink pods; 3D personalised food printing; vitamins based on blood analysis; personalised probiotics through gut testing; to a number of companies working in the field of nutrigenomics, every company is looking for the next best method to tailor fitness and health. Even the big guys like Nestlé, DSM and BASF are heavily investing in the charge.
And with this continued flurry of innovation and clear commitments to the evolution of nutrition as we know it, particularly in advancing DNA analysis, NutraIngredients caught up with Irene Bi, associate consumer analyst at GlobalData, to find out where the consumer opportunities truly lie.
Lucrative opportunities to mass market appeal?
“One of the biggest opportunities arises from targeting health- and image-conscious millennials and Gen Z. These groups are more receptive towards new concepts and willing to experiment,” Bi said.
Providing a service or technology that optimizes fitness and weight loss goals also “presents a lucrative opportunity”, she said.
“Weight loss would resonate strongly with a wide range of audience. Some (usually younger consumers and women) try to lose weight for fitness or a better image, others (usually older people) try to lose weight for health reasons, for example, heart disease, diabetes etc. But, regardless the reason, weight loss stands a better chance of attracting different groups, hence maximizing the appeal of the service.”
But to succeed in using nutrigenomics for weight loss, she said companies will have to provide “tangible results which show consumers that the service does make a real difference to their life”.
This can be documentation from past or current consumers, she said, but it's the only true way to counter consumer concerns around efficacy. In addition, companies would benefit from offering combined services and cross-promotion with leading healthcare brands, she said.
Asked if nutrigenomics is best suited to direct-consumer models or with the guidance of health professionals, Bi said it depends on whether the brand wants to aim for mass market or position as a high-end service.
“The direct-to-consumer approach can keep the cost down and at the same time appeal to as many people as possible. The inclusion of a specialist offers a more personable service, and it also enhances the credibility of the brand and service. But I would say the second approach would be more likely to exist in services which cater for more complex conditions, for example cancer management.”
Remember it's preventative, not curative...
Bi said that, for the time being, nutrigenomics remains a “growing niche” and mass market success won't happen for at least two years.
Companies in the segment will face difficulties, she said, in appealing to consumers who are less health attentive or who don't have any apparent fitness or health concerns. “Remember, personalised nutrition acts as a preventative rather than a curative solution, and usually people only seek help when they are concerned otherwise they would think there is no need for it.”
The main barriers for any firm working in the personalised nutrition space are: price, convenience, user experience and company reputation, she said. Considerations around whether it's too expensive for the general public or too complex a process are key questions to ask.
Despite this, Bi said the overall personalised nutrition trend is being driven by the consumer, not industry and celebrity involvement should encourage more members of the public to give it a go.
She said DNA and blood analysis simply offer “an even more unique and sophisticated approach to personalised nutrition”.
“I would say this is the companies' way to respond to the desire for a 'just-for-me' approach to improving and maintaining health among consumers. ...The fact that fitness monitoring devices are taking off is a strong signal that consumers are seeking personalisation in maintaining and improving health through technology, so the introduction of nutrigenomics is a natural move.”