A funny thing happened on the way to the future of nutrition. Things got personal. Very personal.
Today’s healthy lifestyle consumer is strange, but not in a bad way. They’re conflicted. They want “something", but they are not sure what it is, where it will come from or what it even looks like. That “something" is personalized nutrition. And there is a virtual race taking place to be the first company/brand to 1) get there, and 2) get it right.
But let’s back up a bit. What happened to the passive “the experts will tell me what to buy and I will obey" attitude of the early 2000’s? In short, consumers got smart. And they got connected. And they talked to each other. And they got wired. By that I mean they discovered wearable devices to monitor daily activity, sleep patterns, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and dietary intake. They also learned about DNA and the vast story it can tell them.
What resulted is a consumer who is now empowered and emboldened about health and wellness, but also completely confused about how to bring it all together into a cohesive and holistic program or solution tailored to his or herself. And that’s where we are. It explains a lot, don’t you think? Like why home-delivered meal assembly kits are so popular? And why the traditional three meals per day paradigm is changing so rapidly. And why trendy diets like paleo, gluten-free and vegan are increasingly popular.
Put simply, consumers want a custom approach to health and nutrition, and since they don’t know how to achieve that, they look to brands or experts to package or curate it for them so they can then embrace it and own it as if they created it.
All signs point to personalized nutrition solutions. There is no denying the opportunity for the right company or companies or brand(s), right? So, as we survey the consumer marketplace, we are seeing two primary models of personalized nutrition:
· Blood, saliva or body fluids based assessment
· Lifestyle/demographics input assessment
In qualitative research, most consumers are partial to some type of body fluid assessment since “data doesn’t lie" and they trust it more than a qualitative approach. But, of course, the more invasive assessments carry with them a legal and regulatory risk for brands, as we have seen with 23 and Me as well as several others.
What’s important to note is that consumers seem willing to share personal data and blood/saliva diagnostics to achieve a more customized nutrition solution. And this willingness applies to both dietary supplements as well as food/beverage. The emergence and popularity of meal delivery brands like habit.com are extending body fluid diagnostics to specialty meals/ingredients with consumer profiles like protein-craving or plant-lover in order to make meal assembly kits and ready-to-eat options more targeted and personalized than ever before.
The other factor driving customization is the endless quest for convenience. You know the story; we’re all so busy and we need on the go options. Granted, but the need for convenience at any cost has fueled a dramatic expansion in the delivery formats available for both fundamental and supplemental nutrition. From gummies and shots to stick packs and pellets, consumers seem to be slowly moving away from traditional tablets and capsule delivery to more innovative and desirable dosage delivery vehicles. Seniors have no corner on pill fatigue. It’s a universal issue and concern.
It should come as no surprise that most of the custom nutrition offerings in the marketplace are available primarily online. The reason for that is because most of the personalization algorithms are Web based;this establishes a digital connection between the provider and the consumer that facilitates ongoing communication and engenders loyalty, compliance and re-purchase.
The two key elements graphically represented here are 1) engagement and 2) loyalty/re-purchase. No personalization model can thrive or even survive without these two elements working in lock step. It’s all about 1) getting the consumer to stay on the site when they arrive by offering them a motivation to connect with the brand, and 2) maintaining contact post-purchase to reinforce loyalty, encourage social sharing and facilitate repeat business.
The most intriguing aspect of personalized nutrition, in my opinion, is that consumers today are driving the trend, not manufacturers or brand owners. Most producers, marketers and even entrepreneurs are racing to catch up and stay ahead of a forward-thinking consumer who knows there is a better and more customized way to both construct and supplement their diet.
The other intriguing element is that while millennial consumers are the “tip of the spear" demanding more custom health solutions, Gen X and Boomers are not far behind, even though their health concerns are totally distinct and more prevention-driven. Personalization broadly appears to transcend age breaks. And it also appears to transcend product categories. It will be interesting to watch this trend mature into a full-fledged market segment over the next 10 years.
Smart manufacturers, ingredient suppliers and brand owners are all over this. Seeking a role and partnering to be part of the solution. There is clearly enough opportunity to go around. Carve out your slice. Soon.
Learn more about the market for personalized nutrition from Jeff Hilton during the Making Personalized Nutrition a Reality Panel Discussion on Thursday, Sept. 28 at 9 a.m. at SupplySide West in Las Vegas. The Workshop is underwritten by SuperbaKrill and AkerBioMarine.
Jeff Hilton is partner and co-founder of BrandHive (brandhive.com), a prominent healthy-lifestyle branding agency celebrating 20 years working with dietary supplement, functional food and beverage, and health and beauty brands. Hilton brings 35 years of advanced business and marketing insight to his clients, and has been recognized by Advertising Age magazine as one of the nation's Top 100 Marketers. He is also a recipient of Nutrition Business Journal’s Personal Service Award.