Personalized nutrition is next on the menu

Meat & Poultry, Nov. 30, 2017 - by Keith Nunes

FRANKFURT, Germany — What do genetic testing, developing a better understanding of the microbiome, wearable technology, 3D printing, and more sophisticated meal delivery models have in common? They may all contribute to the rise of personalized nutrition, according to two presentations made during the Food Ingredients trade show taking place this week in Frankfurt.

Much like e-commerce, the business models arising around the concept of personalized nutrition may vary widely. Habit, the San Francisco-based start-up that is now a part of the Campbell Soup Co., Camden, New Jersey, and offers a personalized nutrition program that is based on genetic testing is the poster company for the concept. But other opportunities may involve the simple development of food and beverage products tailored for specific needs.

“Personalization has many different forms,” said Jenny Arthur, head of nutrition and product development for Leatherhead Food Research, London. “Consumers are rejecting the idea that one size fits all, but what personalized nutrition means is currently not clear to them.

“Where we are now is at the point of customization — What would you like on your sandwich? How do you like your coffee?”

Where we are headed, Arthur said, is toward more consultative efforts, similar to what customers receive when they visit the beauty department in a department store. Eventually the personalized nutrition trend may reach the point of “sensorial engagement.”

“This is the sweet spot of personalized nutrition,” Arthur said. “This is the wow factor. This is feeling it and believing it.”

Getting to the point of being able to offer consumers truly personalized solutions will require significant changes in consumer knowledge about their needs, food manufacturing and distribution.

“We are talking about offering individual consumers different ingredient formulations, which is very difficult to do,” Arthur said. “The costs throughout the supply chain would be enormous.”

Such emerging technologies as 3D printing may have an impact on supply chains and distribution.

Consumer knowledge will be enhanced by developments in genetic testing and the mapping of the gut microbiome. One day consumers may have a much clearer idea of their individual needs and how their bodies may respond to the ingestion of specific ingredients.

From a supply chain and distribution perspective, such emerging technologies as 3D printing may have an impact. Some day a consumer may conceivably download a personalized product formulation and print it in their home for consumption.

“Now you’ve lowered the costs of distribution,” Arthur said.

As smartphones and apps have proliferated, consumers have access to tremendous amounts of information.

What may spur the rapid development of personalized nutrition is the consumer’s growing interest in different forms of wearable technology. As smartphones and apps have proliferated, consumers have access to tremendous amounts of information and, in many cases, are basing dietary decisions on the information they find personally relevant.

“The smartphone is the current gadget that allows people to get a better idea of what they are eating through diaries,” said Mariette Abrahams, a principal in Mariette Abrahams Consulting, Algarve, Portugal. “We are moving into the Internet of Things and eventually will reach artificial intelligence, which may offer different benefits.”