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Fi Europe 2021

Personalised nutrition and the future of ingredients [Interview]

Article-Personalised nutrition and the future of ingredients [Interview]

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Consumers are increasingly looking to personalised nutrition in order to meet specific dietary and health needs. We spoke with Rick Miller, Associate Director of Specialised Nutrition at Mintel, to find out how this trend is shaping the ingredients sector, and also how technological innovation is opening up new opportunities.

What is driving this trend towards personalised food products – what are consumers expecting?

“The drive towards personalisation has been developing for quite some time. Mintel’s consumer trend ‘Make it Mine’ explains that consumers view personalisation – that is, the ability to purchase bespoke and customised products or services to their needs – as a right, not a privilege. This is set against a backdrop of increasing sophistication in health wearables technology, such as smart watches, and reducing prices for direct-to-consumer health testing, such as DNA tests. Consumers expect technology to continue to improve as well as brands and suppliers to react, creating food and drink products and services that are more seamlessly integrated with their unique health and performance needs.”

What have been some of the challenges manufacturers have faced in meeting these demands?

“There are a number of challenges that manufacturers have faced but the most obvious is where a product has been launched at a time when consumers are not ready for it.”

Where have we seen most success in using personalised ingredients?

“The vitamins, minerals and supplements (VMS) sector has seen marked success in the personalisation sector. Brands and their respective suppliers have been quick to use a variety of methods to personalise VMS, including using online assessment tools, health assays (e.g., results from blood tests) and healthcare professional support. This has led to a surge in brands entering the personalised VMS market and expanding into new demographics, such as children’s VMS.”

Are there any examples you would like to highlight as being particularly innovative?

“DSM who are well established within ingredients, and have displayed considerable innovation with their Mixfit service. Mixfit is a personalised nutrition drinks system that integrates with a multitude of consumer wearables (including activity trackers and food diaries) to create and dispense bespoke drinks that ‘top up’ nutrient deficits. A premium-positioned product but nevertheless innovative in terms of its ability to adapt to a consumer’s changing nutrient needs over time.”

Why should manufacturers be turning their attention now to this trend? 

“Personalisation is the future of nutrition and in turn, ingredients. There are indications, as outlined by Mintel’s 2030 Global Food & Drink Trend, Smart Diets, that personalised approaches to food will become mainstream by the end of the decade. Hence, manufacturers need to prepare and react now.

What does the future hold for personalised ingredients?

“Personalisation in ingredients has huge implications for the mass market seeking to optimise health, but also for more specialised areas such as foods for special medical purposes that seek to manage recovery or mitigate malnutrition. As our global population continues to age, these types of products and the role of nutrition in prevention and management of disease becomes increasingly important. Furthermore, in the wake of COVID-19, we’ve seen a glimpse of the limitations of current healthcare systems and the need for agile manufacturing systems to create personalised products for the vulnerable, and this is a huge opportunity for manufacturers.”

As the category progresses, what does the future look like?

“The category will see a greater sharing of consumer health, food preference and performance data with suppliers and brands. This is the only way to create more adaptive algorithms that can more confidently predict consumer nutrition needs before they even ask for it. That may seem like something from the realm of science fiction, but the evidence suggests that technological improvements are edging in this direction.  Our consumer insights suggest that consumers are happy to do this on the basis that the end result is a better product or service.”

What lessons do you hope attendees will take away from this session?

“My hope is that attendees come away from the session excited about the prospect of personalisation and ready to integrate the concepts and learnings into their new or existing product development pipeline.”