‘A major step forward for personalized nutrition’: Viome to acquire Habit from Campbell Soup

By Stephen Daniells contact

- Last updated on GMT

Image courtesy of Habit
Image courtesy of Habit
Microbiome-based personalized food start-up Viome has entered into an agreement to buy fellow personalized nutrition company Habit from Campbell Soup Company.

The offerings from the two companies will complement each other because Viome makes personalized food recommendations based on a person’s microbiome, while Habit develops nutritional recommendations based on an individual’s biology, metabolism and personal goals.

Commenting independently on the news, Jeffrey Bland, PhD, President of the Personalized Lifestyle Medicine Institute (PLMI)​, welcomed the news, telling us: “The report of the acquisition of Habit by Viome I believe to be an important bench mark in the evolution of the personalized nutrition field.

“The perfect articulation of personalized health”

Oakland-based Habit​, which burst into the public consciousness in late 2016 with a $32 million investment from Campbell Soup, also trialed a meal delivery plan to users’ doorsteps in the Bay Area, but that was paused in 2018 to allow the company to roll out is testing kits nationally​.

“With Habit now part of Viome, we have the perfect articulation of personalized health,”​ said Viome​ founder and CEO, Naveen Jain.

“I have always admired Habit's ability to engage and motivate the consumer. Combined with Viome's deep insights from the microbiome, we are able to see the complete story our body is telling us about our overall health.”

The acquisition also allows Viome to tap into Habit's robust consumer behavior modification insights.

Viome’s technology is licensed from Los Alamos National Lab (a Department of Energy national laboratory) and looks beyond just bacteria to also take into account a person's individual suite of viruses, yeast, fungus and mold. This gives the company a “great competitive advantage and great foundation for creating the ultimate whole-body nutrition solution”, ​said Neil Grimmer, Habit's Founder and CEO.

“With the advent of big data and computational biology, I believe it's possible to provide everyone in this country and around the world a personalized blueprint to achieve their health and wellness goals,”​ said Grimmer.

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. William Hood & Company, LLC served as the exclusive financial advisor to Campbell and Habit.

An important benchmark

The personalized nutrition space is heating up, and there is already some consolidation happening in the category. In addition to the Viome-Habit deal, Medtronic acquired Israeli personalized nutrition company Nutrino Health​ late last year.

Another Israeli company - DayTwo​ – has been expanding its globally after rolling out in the US initially. The company, which provides personalized nutrition information from the results of their gut microbiome and participant diet history analysis, is also targeting APAC, and China in particular​.

“Each one of these companies represents a different approach to the personalized nutrition market,” ​explained PLMI’s Dr Bland.

“Viome and Habit have chosen the direct-to-consumer route for their market focus tying together microbiome analysis with blood sugar response to specific foods, whereas Medtronic and Nutrino are focusing on the diabetic market with the combination of continuous blood sugar analysis technology interfaced with Nutrino Health's food composition and glycemic control data in their app, and  DayTwo focused on their proprietary microbiome-glycemic response data base and interpretive algorithm embedded in their app,” ​he added.  

“Each of these companies is exploring how to best engage people in changing their eating behavior to foods that are personalized to their specific needs to regulate their blood sugar and insulin levels.

“It is my belief that within the space occupied by these three companies resides the next major step forward in making personalized nutrition much more widely adopted,”​ added Dr Bland.    

Timing

"Given the advances in microbiome research and its commercial application, it was clear that the personalized approaches to health and wellness, had to include an assessment of the gut microbiome,"​ Dr Mark Miller, Chief Innovation Officer at INW Manufacturing, told us. "This merger/acquisition looks to provide a superior and convenient source of guidance for consumers"

"Expanding awareness as to how diet-microbiome interactions affect health in an easy, creative, convenient manner will create a whole new level of discussion among consumers. The only issue of concern is if changes in test results are out of sync with alterations in individual health. If that happens then consumers will ask hard questions as to their utility and how meaningful is the guidance.

"To date personalized medicine has been established at a rather superficial level. Now we are taking a DEEP DIVE into core drivers. It will be fascinating to observe how consumers react and respond."

Kit-4
Image courtesy of Habit

A key aspect in the Habit test is the shake challenge, which is very sensitive to see how the body responds to food. This is based on the PhenFlex​ test developed by researchers at TNO in the Netherlands. Validation of the test was published in Genes and Nutrition​.

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