If there’s a single defining aspect of the last 20 years, it must surely be the rapid pace of change throughout all areas of society. The development and swift uptake of new technologies have fundamentally altered nearly every aspect of our lives — from the ways in which we communicate to our working world, our transport and even our nutrition
The Internet age has seen unprecedented access to information that may once have been considered to be specialist. This has enabled consumers to gain an understanding of how nutrition affects their health while empowering them to take ownership of their well-being through the foods and supplements that they consume each day.
The result? A rapid development of new products and technologies that enhance the lives of an increasingly health-conscious population, improving their wellness from birth through to active retirement. Kinga Wojcicka-Swiderska, Head of Content, Vitafoods Europe, at Informa Markets, reports.
This improved health awareness creates vast opportunities for brands in the nutrition space. To stay ahead of the curve, industry leaders must identify emerging consumer trends that are set to define the future of the nutrition industry.
Only by embracing the rapid change that characterises the current era can organisations hope to remain at its fore, turning today’s consumer data into the products and technologies of tomorrow.
To help brands identify what’s next, this article takes a closer look at some of the key trends currently shaping the nutrition industry ahead of the upcoming Future of Nutrition Summit at Vitafoods Europe.
One size does not fit all
From our clothing through to our mobile phones, the desire for customisation has never been greater. And as industry insiders know, there is no such thing as a one-stop solution when it comes to nutrition.
Although diets have always been shaped by environment, cultural and social backgrounds, individual health needs were not necessarily part of this conversation … until now.
A greater understanding of our unique dietary requirements, including the gut microbiome or personal preferences, means that brands have more opportunity than ever before to appeal to consumers for personalisation.
Dr Suzan Wopereis is a Principal Scientist at Dutch applied research organisation TNO and focuses on the impact of lifestyle on health. She explains: “Personalised nutrition starts with the collection of individual personal data,” she says.
“Based on advanced interpretation of these data, a personalised service or product can be offered. Basing such offerings on evidence-based knowledge and technology is key.”
Wearing and sharing
One of the ways in which technology is supporting this evidence-based approach is via the increased uptake of wearable devices. Today, our smart watches, jewellery and wristbands can not only monitor heart rates and step counts, but also track health data such as sleep quality, oxygen saturation, menstrual cycle, respiratory rate, metabolism and, of course, nutrition.
This data can be interpreted using apps and websites that make recommendations based on the user’s unique health needs, creating a lifestyle plan that is both accurate and fully personalised.
Consumers are increasingly willing to share this data to gain better insights into their health.
A 2022 Connectivity and Mobile Trends study by Deloitte found that 47% of respondents already share this data with their healthcare providers, whereas its 2022 Future of Fresh Food study found that 42% would be willing to share this data with a third-party grocery app or website for personalised nutritional recommendations.1,2
By working in partnership with consumers to capture and interpret this data, the nutrition industry has access to unprecedented opportunities.
Not only can brands use the data gathered from wearables to gain a better understanding of consumer motivations, but they can also use this information to accurately develop new products and technologies that acknowledge each consumer’s individual needs. Wopereis explains: “A final trend feeding into this personalised nutrition arena is scientific agreement that not every diet fits every person.”
Just as consumers are increasingly embracing personalised diets, so too are they looking for more tailored approaches to supplementation. Dr Evan Berk, Unilever’s Global Director of Nutritional Sciences and Innovation, believes that personalisation is more than just another trend when it comes to the future of nutritional supplementation.
“Previously, products may have been mass-personalised, offering a few choices for many people,” he explains. “Now, there is an opportunity to have a broader portfolio and truly deliver a personalised solution for the individual.”
Although many companies already produce supplements based on traditional age and sex formulation parameters, the improved interpretation of health information has resulted in more bespoke options.
These include personalised supplementation based on consumer-provided data such as questionnaires, as well as more in-depth data gathered from DNA samples — all of which can then be analysed to create custom supplementation solutions.
What’s more, microbiome sequencing allows for an even more personalised approach. Using kits that involve collecting samples at home and then returning them (by post) to a lab for analysis, consumers are enabled to quickly and easily map their unique composition of good and bad gut microbes — including bacteria, fungi and viruses.
This data can then be used to plan an optimised nutritional intake that supports a healthier microbiome, which has been shown to potentially enhance multiple health areas.
By pulling together information from a broader spectrum of sources than ever before, experts are increasingly able to leverage technology to deliver more targeted nutritional options, creating choice and improving efficacy for health-savvy consumers.
Precisely does it
We all know that food is our first medicine; however, what happens when our diet is potentially fuelling disease? Is there sometimes a case for nutritional depletion as opposed to supplementation? Precision fermentation is an emerging technology that uses microbes to create specific functional products.
This technique is most associated with the creation of “lab-grown” meat products, allowing for extremely precise adjustments to a food’s nutritional profile. But its applications do not end there.
Precision nutrition takes this targeted approach and uses it to adjust the nutritional composition of foods with the specific aim of helping people to achieve specific health goals — such as combatting the development of certain types of cancer.
Anand Parikh is the CEO and cofounder of Faeth Therapeutics, a start-up bringing together some of the world’s leading cancer scientists. Faeth Therapeutics’ innovative approach uses precision fermentation to deplete foods of three non-essential amino acids that have been found to fuel the growth of certain cancers (serine, glycine and proline).
In collaboration with chefs and scientists, the organisation has developed a home delivery meal plan that aims to tackle specific cancer types; examples include an amino acid-modulated dahl that can be easily microwaved by patients.
The plan is backed with an app that gives users access to registered dieticians who provide additional health support as they undergo cancer treatment. Preclinical research on pancreatic cancer models has shown that cancer drug treatments were up to 500% more effective and could even stop the growth of cancerous cells when combined with a Faeth diet.3
The goal is to create entirely personalised meal plans that tackle the full spectrum of cancers. This massive feat utilises a costly custom-built machine learning platform to gather and process data around cancer and nutrition; but, although ambitious, the approach enables Faeth Therapeutics to achieve impressive results through nutritional adjustments.
“What we do is we cut the petrol to the tank,” Parikh explains: “[We] remove the nutrients that these tumours rely on.”
Leading the conversation
The future of the nutrition industry will largely depend on businesses meeting the challenges that an increased demand for personalisation brings. Only by aligning their strategic priorities with these and other evolving consumer trends can nutrition brands leverage these developments and turn insight into action that will inform their future business planning.
To further explore these ideas, Vitafoods Europe will this year be hosting the Future of Nutrition Summit on 8 May at the Marriott Hotel, Geneva, providing an opportunity for those attending Vitafoods Europe 2023 to add further value to their visit.
The Future of Nutrition Summit will provide insight into the next 5 years of the health and nutrition industry, with in-depth analysis on the future of precision nutrition, the digitalisation of health, new technologies for health management and future sustainable solutions throughout the value chain.
The Summit also enables attendees to network with leaders from a diverse range of disciplines, including food science, innovation, sustainability, retail, nutrition and public health, as well as start-ups/scale-ups and investors.