Personalised nutrition: A chance for real change

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

From left: Juha Villanen, Dmitry Alexeev, Gill Blander, Rob Boudeker and chair Arnold Bos (Lux Research)
From left: Juha Villanen, Dmitry Alexeev, Gill Blander, Rob Boudeker and chair Arnold Bos (Lux Research)

Related tags personalised nutrition

Personalised nutrition has the potential to be at the forefront of real change in the fight against nutrition and lifestyle caused chronic diseases, according to experts speaking at the Future Food-Tech Summit.

Speaking during a panel discussion at the two day conference in London last week, Juha Villanen, business development manager EMEA for Garmin Health Germany, said that personalised health and nutrition businesses are making a business out of making it easier to eat right and live right.

He said these innovations are a great way to teach people about their own health needs and show them how their lifestyles impact their health, adding “we have opportunities to show people how they can make themselves feel better.”

Dmitry Alexeev, head of microbiome research at Atlas Biomed UK, added that personalised solutions could be a great way for companies to start taking the lead role in helping people to understand the importance of lifestyle and nutrition - something no-one has wanted to do so far.

“We, as the food industry might say ‘it’s not for us to sort, it’s for the NHS’ and the NHS might say ‘it should be done at school' and the schools might say ‘it’s for the parents’. Someone has to start taking responsibility.

"If we look at the growing numbers of chronic diseases maybe it's not the time to worry about earning big margins, maybe it's time to look after the health of our future generations."”

He added that personalised nutrition apps and wearable devices are also good way to start advertising healthy food – something he feels has not been done enough in comparison to advertising for unhealthy options.

“This is the place for healthy food to be advertised, otherwise healthy food doesn’t appear on our screens,” ​he argued.

The expanding audience

Discussing the target audience for personalised nutrition solutions, Vallanen said he has witnessed a ‘big rush’ in interest in wearable tech from nutrition firms.

“Garmin used to be an athlete performance wearables company but in the last two years we’ve been going towards the wellbeing and active lifestyle side."

Gill Blander, founder and chief scientific officer for InsideTracker USA, said the ease and simplicity of personalised nutrition has made it a concept appealing to a huge range of consumers.

“In the beginning the main adopters were those that were particularly health aware but we are seeing now the majority are interested in finding a solution to mimic the value of the blood test, such as with questionnaires – there are now many companies offering personalised health advice and supplements based on a few questions.

He also argued that having a personalised offering is hugely beneficial to the businesses as well as the customers as it helps them to understand their customers and gives them direction for future innovations.

Alexeev added that the interest in personalisation is coming from all ages of consumers, from those looking to boost personal performance to those concerned about healthy ageing.

He added that a personalised solution will appeal to any consumers looking to cut through some of the confusion created from the many health benefits touted across so many different products.

“The problem we feel customers try to solve is removing the noise of different benefits of products caused by the huge number of marketing messages we see.”

Rob Beudeker, senior investment director for DSM Venturing in the Netherlands, says one of the big issues with nutrition and supplements, is compliance, and he points out that personalisation is a great way to increase compliance.

“People start to eat healthy or take supplements but then they lose interest.

“Personalised nutrition is an opportunity to keep people more compliant because they are getting feedback through diagnostics so they can see the benefits."

He added that when customers are wary not to trust brands but they will always trust themselves and so personal data and personal feedback reigns supreme.

What's next?

Villanen suggested that big businesses are sure to start investing in personalised health and nutrition solutions as they realise the benefits to their own business.

He said that in Finland companies are starting to invest more in the health and nutrition of their employees because they know that increasing their health will 'increase their energy and their performance'.

Discussing the huge potential for personalised health companies to work with health insurance companies, Alexeev added that current players have to provide the data to show how well their solutions work.

“Research is so important to drive the whole sector and to drive innovation and for the insurance industry to adopt the technology.

“If we create the research to show it could save money then the insurance companies will follow.”


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