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What can personalised nutrition learn from non-food industries?

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Customisation has already gained a strong foothold in the food and beverage sector, with offerings ranging from coffee and drinks vending machines designed around taste preferences, to meal plans for people following special diets, and products for seniors and diabetes sufferers.

Personalised nutrition will increase its influence in new product development, according to Leatherhead Food Research, largely thanks to keen Millennials. But the food industry still has much to learn from other sectors when it comes to individual needs assessment and sensorial engagement.

"The personalisation trend is set to continue because of the link between Millenials and technology", said Jenny Arthur, head of nutrition and product development at Leatherhead.

Speaking at the Future of Nutrition Summit in Frankfurt, Arthur said that consumers born after 1980 are very used to wearable technology, they have grown up with a high degree of personalisation, and are driven by a yen for personal empowerment and rejection of one size fits all.

Older consumers, on the other hand, are less accepting, but actually have the greatest need for products that are tailored to their specific health needs.

Four forms of personalisation

Leatherhead has identified four different forms of personalisation:

  • Customisation, which is focused on consumer choice and custom packaging;
  • Personal consultation, involving individual needs assessments and enabling consumers to make an informed choice;
  • Diagnostics, which uses devices and clinical science to help consumers understand their needs and what advice to follow;
  • Sensorial engagement, which combines emotional appeal with science and is the hardest form to focus on.

Customisation has already gained a strong foothold in the food and beverage sector, with offerings ranging from coffee and drinks vending machines designed around taste preferences, to meal plans for people following special diets, and products for seniors and diabetes sufferers.

But as it develops into new realms, there is much to be learned from non-food industries. Shoe manufacturers, for example, have successfully expanded into personal consultation and diagnostics, by assessing shoppers' feet and gait, and using iPads in-store to make recommendations on suitable footwear.

The personal care and beauty industries are really leading the way, however. Particularly with skin care, hair care, and colour cosmetics that meet all four of forms of the personal consumer experience, including the coveted sensorial engagement.

Happy to share personal information?

In a 2017 survey involving 3,256 consumers from the UK and USA (focus group attendees and online survey respondents), Leatherhead found that many consumers are prepared to share phenotypic and genotypic information so that products can be personalised to their own body's needs.

  • 35% of respondents said they were happy for companies to use personal information that they’ve supplied (e.g. height, weight, health goals etc.) to offer them personalised food and drink products;
  • 21% would provide such information if it could help them lose weight;
  • 17% were willing to share information if it could help them make more informed decisions about the food they eat.

 

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