Odds are, you’ve heard from a customer who had purchased such-and-such supplement or switched to a new diet because they heard about how beneficial it was…but they were disappointed that it didn’t work as well as they had hoped. Maybe that experience even led them to doubt the benefits of a healthy lifestyle in general.
In the age of personal nutrition, such unfortunate scenarios may become less common. With the surge in popularity of DNA kits like AncestryDNA and 23andMe, there is increased awareness of just how individual we all are. One-size-fits-all approaches are going out the window as consumers turn to companies that use DNA to inform specific diet and exercise recommendations based on nutrigenetics—the influence a person’s genes have on the body’s response to different nutrients. Genetic makeup influences what we can digest, how we absorb nutrients, how we cope with toxins and more. Beyond nutrition and fitness, nutrigenetics looks at susceptibility to health conditions. One example is wine: For some it is beneficial; for others, because of their genetic makeup, it may increase the risk of certain diseases (1).
There is now an abundance of available tests varying in price and focus—to name just a few: Helix focuses on exercise and fitness with its DNAFit; Orig3n has lifestyle and fitness/nutrition testing; Habit offers a nutrition plan based off results; Vitagene has personalized supplements.
DSM, a global science-based company, and Mixfit, a digital health company, are also working to take personal nutrition to the next level. The two are teaming up to provide personal nutrition solutions to individuals with the nutrients they need for optimal health based on a comprehensive set of health and activity measurements. The partnership blends DSM’s expertise in micronutrients with Mixfit’s technology to analyze health data, address nutritional gaps and support a healthy lifestyle.
How it works: The “nutrition assistant” Mina analyzes a person’s genetic makeup, alongside diet, lifestyle and health goals to create a customized beverage that contains the specific vitamins and minerals that individual needs in a day. Along with this, Mina provides personal nutritional recommendations. Peter De-Meester, VP of global strategy of DSM Human Nutrition and Health, shares that this partnership supports the company’s mission of keeping the world’s growing population healthy.
“Personalization is the future of nutrition,” asserts Reza Zanjani, Mixfit President & CEO. “By combining DSM’s scientific background and high-quality micronutrients with Mixfit’s unique digital knowledge and experience in personalized nutrition, we are ensuring that Mina improves the lives of health-conscious consumers worldwide. Our future plans include expansion into targeted, health-oriented boosters for specific health benefits.”
Gut health is another area that companies are focusing on in terms of individual needs, as research has shown that every body is vastly different in gut makeup—and that optimizing gut health plays a key role in overall wellbeing. Carbiotix offers gut-testing and personalized supplements. The company’s LoveGut box includes testing with personalized advice and the PersonalGut includes testing with a personalized prebiotic. Carbiotix used knowledge about how prebiotics impact the human gut microbiome to develop the gut microbiome testing. Based on the test results, customers can be guided in their diet towards fiber-rich foods that are designed to sustain optimal gut health.
A personalized fiber supplement takes all the guesswork out of selecting the right fiber and dosage and its impact on good gut bacteria. And those recommendations can be adjusted as needed. Carbiotix modifies the dosing based on an individuals’ changing gut microbiome. The level of personalization is impacted by the length of time on the service, total number of subscribers and the completeness of the current survey.
What to look for in 2019:
Technology and creativity are teaming up to introduce innovative products in the realm of personal nutrition. A few highlights:
• Güdpod was founded in 2012 by founder and chairman, Gian-Carlo Ochoa, Ph.D., after his wife commented on his supplement routine. What if all those nutrients could be combined into one drink? A lightbulb went off in Ochoa’s head, and Güdpod was born. “No pun intended,” he says. “I take personalized nutrition very personally.”
Güdpod is a machine—some have compared it to a Keurig—that uses pre-packaged pods and the liquid of your choice (water, milk, juice, etc.) to provide a tailored drink to the consumer. Ochoa describes the machine as a single serve blender in a pod. There are specialty health pods, so whether the consumer is looking for a boost of probiotics, enzymes, pre/post workout drinks or to use as a meal replacement shake, they can find something tailored to their needs. Ochoa notes it is useful for those with food allergies or sensitivities because of all the options available. Moving into 2019, Güdpod is looking into categories like sports nutrition, nutricosmetics and superfoods/green drinks to continue to expand their offerings.
Currently, Güdpod is working to distribute to retailers so consumers can buy products in-store. The company has partnered with Glanbia to identify qualified retail partners. A long-term goal is to expand and create even more personalized formulations for consumers, which could potentially supplement pills for those with an involved regimen. This could solve pill fatigue for those who experience this issue. If selling a liquid vitamin device in your store, Ochoa suggests distributing samples so customers can see how the machine works and test out the taste.
• Tespo, a countertop single-shot liquid vitamin distributor, enables consumers to consolidate many pills into one liquid serving that the company says has a month’s worth of vitamins without any fillers or chemicals. “We’re currently looking for viable retail partners for 2019 and are excited about the mutually beneficial opportunities that exist,” says Ted Mills, Tespo CEO. DSM contributed a large investment in this pill alternative.
“Truly personalized nutrition requires education and innovation,” continues Mills. “Creating strong, organic relationships with health and wellness retailers is an absolute must to ensure we garner the exposure and impact needed to elevate our brand.” The company uses its innovation to integrate retail and education into their 2019 strategy, so keep an eye out for these products.
• Quisper is among the emergence of personalized apps. This digital platform uses scientific data to deliver personal nutrition advice. It can also capture personal data and request diagnostic services. The platform does this by collecting data from food scientists. All of this research can then be distributed to third parties like dieticians or grocers to pass on to customers. Although the knowledge is already there with natural retailers, platforms like this can share additional information with customers.
Personal connection sets retailers apart
This is all wonderful for consumers, of course, but for retailers it poses a bit of a challenge: Some companies are offering direct-to-consumer “pill packs” wherein consumers can get personalized supplements mailed to their doorstep, cutting the retailer out of the equation. However, many consumers still prefer the face-to-face interaction and advice from their local retailers over shopping online. In that sense, the testing kits can help consumers better understand their needs, and that knowledge, combined with retailers’ understanding of the product offering, can help retailers and consumers collaborate to create the ultimate personalized regimen for optimal health.
That sort of approach has worked within supermarkets. With the abundance of new grocery products, label changes and the growth of specialty diets, supermarkets have turned to hiring special dieticians to give consumers advice on their personal nutrition. Dietician, nutritionist and author Ellie Krieger reported on the personalized trend in The Washington Post: “When it was founded in 2001, the Supermarket-Retail Dietitians practice group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics had 14 members. Today, it has 720, a testament to the grocery industry’s growing emphasis on providing food and nutrition guidance as a service for shopper” (2).
This suggests good news for smaller and independent retailers, since most hold an abundance of product and nutrition knowledge. Consumers now more than ever are looking for personal nutritional recommendations, and the personal touch is where retailers excel. “Isn’t all nutrition personal?” muses Debra Stark of Debra’s Natural Gourmet, Concord, MA. “One of our favorite sentences when people ask for guidance, or will this or that work, is that we’re all different, and what works for one won’t for another.” Natural product retailers who can take the time to talk to their customers have this advantage and can cater to individual needs.
So what can be done in-store? As Kreiger reported, “Some brands have in-store dietitians conducting tours, leading cooking demonstrations and classes, providing tasting opportunities, and doing health screenings. Others focus their outreach online and in print with robust dietitian-run Web pages, social media platforms and apps, as well as newsletters, magazines and tip sheets where you can find recipes, healthy meal inspirations and ingredient guidance” (1).
This follows the original model of the natural independent retailer. That is the ultimate “personalized nutrition.” “Empowering people to try different doses, different diets, different supplements is what we’ve always done,” says Stark. “Talking to people as individuals and helping them navigate what might work for them leads to trust and loyalty.” WF
1. “Bridging the Gap Between Nature and Nurture,” http://www.nutrigenetics.net/
2. Krieger, Ellie, “Free dietary advice might be as close as your local grocery store,” https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/free-dietary-advice-might-be-as-close-as-your-local-grocery-store/2018/11/16/