The health impacts of foods will become much more important in new product development as the capabilities of personalised nutrition take off in the coming years. For the F&B industry, there is still a lot of work to do to figure out how to capitalise on this promise. We talked to Nard Clabbers, Senior Business Developer Personalised Nutrition & Health at TNO about his Fi Europe 2017 Conference presentation on the evolution of the nutrition industry: from product developers to service providers.
How has F&B companies’ approach to new product development evolved in recent years?
“In my opinion it has not evolved that much. You often see the same old incremental development steps, mostly on taste, price and convenience. I sometimes use the example of a custard producer I know. They have been selling vanilla flavored custard for decades and what was one of their recent launches? An ‘extra-strong’ vanilla flavored custard. Really? That’s it? Where is the true added value for customers there?”
“Another development I have seen is less interest in health claims and scientific research to substantiate those following the new EU health claim regulations. I suspect that this has led to fewer innovations.”
Can you give some examples of some of the more exciting new products out there at the moment?
“For the really exiting innovations, I think we need to be thinking more about services that are being developed to help consumers make a personalized choice. See www.Habit.com for instance as an example of a US based company that not only sells meals but also helps their consumers to find the best possible option for them based on individual measurements of health.”
What is the biggest challenge for companies operating in the F&B sector at the moment?
“I can imagine that different people will come up with totally different answers to this questions. It really depends on your current position. From my perspective, I think that the F&B sector should think about how they can add real value to the life of their consumer. One of the biggest challenges for them to reach this is the wish (or should we say need) for absolute(!) trust and transparency. This is missing in the relationship between consumers and many F&B producers.”
How has the consumer’s relationship with food changed in recent years? What should F&B companies be doing to address these changes?
“More and more, consumers question the messages from F&B companies. Often, this is actually quite logical because many brands did not communicate very science-based to say the least. Consumers always want to have something that is right for them, that fits their individual needs. Up until now, that fit was mostly on price, taste and convenience. Starting now with the younger and more knowledgeable people and growing to mass market in the future, I think that knowledge on individual health effects of nutrition will become part of that mix.”
Personalized nutrition is a big consumer trend at the moment? What does the F&B industry need to do to meet this trend? How can it be commercialized?
“Two things are important here I think. First is to see how you can cooperate with other businesses to create business ecosystems to increase value for the consumer and secondly to be able to use data to make the connection with those consumers.”
“To add to the last point, I think that the F&B industry should try to get to know their consumers better and from different angles. Not only their physiological needs (which is difficult already) but also their social and psychological needs. The combination of this could lead to true added value for the consumer.”
What advice would you give to F&B companies who are looking for long-term success? What should they focus their business strategies on?
“The balance is absolutely shifting. The consumer of the future will be more empowered. Be close to your consumer and the groups they are in, add real objectifiable value, be serious about the health effects of your product or service. Talking about services, there is untapped potential in linking consumers to existing food products based on their individual needs (like a health profile). Sometimes you do not even need a new product but rather an innovative service! Finally, cooperate with other companies.”
“I would suggest to invest in products and services that offer true value to the consumer of the future. As a test, presume that they can establish a health effect themselves perfectly and ask yourself if they would still buy your product with enthusiasm.”
You’re talking at the Future of Nutrition Summit – what are your predictions for the industry in 5+ years’ time?
“I would say that today, taste, price and convenience are most important in F&B purchases. The steps that Google and Amazon are taking in retail are interesting. I predict that they will solve the ‘convenience’ issues we have around food pretty quickly. Most companies also know quite well what to do with taste. There is always room for improvement but let’s be honest, how many bad-tasting products are still on the market? Price is always an issue so you have to ask yourself where you want to compete with your fellow F&B makers. On price only? Or do you perhaps want to look at adding health to the equation? I guess that that is more interesting than trying to race your competitors to the bottom of the price range.”
“Five years is not that long so I think many things will be quite similar to how they are now in 5 years. But don’t fool yourself, the world is definitely changing and it is the 5+ that people active in innovation should look at.”