Consumers are also noticing that there can be differences even among these better-for-you products. Foods and beverages can be fortified with any variety of health boosters, including protein, probiotics, vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and good fats like omega-3s. What consumers may just be learning is that these products can also be designed with their very specific health needs in mind. This notion of personalized nutrition has been gaining traction in the food and beverage industry and could define how tomorrow’s manufacturers center their product development.
So what exactly is personalized nutrition? This trending approach to consumers’ daily nutritional intake moves beyond a cookie-cutter plan that advises all individuals to consume “X vegetables, Y protein, Z carbs.” Instead, consumers are looking at their own individualized or genetic needs and attempting to choose foods that give them the most bang for their nutritional buck. Back in January 2017, The NPD Group declared that the idea of “my own diet” is ascending as the most common way consumers take control of what they eat.
The market today is all about helping consumers navigate the data they are receiving about their health. In an article for FoodNavigator, Melanie Zanoza Bartelme, a global food analyst with Mintel noted: “The real crux of what is going to make [personalized nutrition] resonate with consumers is guidance, because consumers are confused… they want to have someone help them connect all the different dots about what they know about themselves.”1
What's Behind the Growing Demand for Customized Foods?
In addition to choosing whole foods that serve this purpose, consumers are also looking for fortified products that also deliver on these desires. An apple can provide fiber, but so can a nutritional shake or enhanced English muffin. The drivers for these choices cross all categories, too. Active millennials may choose high-protein foods because they are training for a race. Baby boomers might seek protein to help ward off sarcopenia, age-related loss of muscle mass. A celiac patient might look for grain-free baked goods because they are gluten-free, while a pre-diabetic may be looking for a low glycemic index option. Whatever their reasoning, consumers are now looking for and expect choices that seem designed with their specific needs in mind.
What do some of these consumers look like? And what might they be looking for? Let’s look at a few scenarios:
- James, a 25-year-old business school student, balances days at the library with evenings relieving stress at the gym. He turns to protein- and caffeine-enhanced shakes to take him from entrepreneurship class to boxing class before he can get dinner.
- Allison, a 31-year-old mother of two, is expecting baby #3. Her doctor says she needs folic acid, but her supplements only exacerbate her morning sickness. She’s also worried she isn’t gaining enough weight, but she is certain that high fat, low nutritional value options are not the solution her doctor had in mind.
- Scott’s nearly done with chemo. His spirits are high, but even his favorite foods are turning his stomach. With a hectic work schedule and constant doctors’ appointments, he’s hoping to find some neutral-tasting meal options designed with his condition in mind.
- Fifty-one-year-old Paul is heading off on a four-day hike from Cuzco to Machu Picchu. The guides are carrying most of the supplies, but he’s worried the strenuous exercise and change in elevation will leave him lightheaded and exhausted. He’s looking for a calorie-dense snack he can easily stow in his pack that will keep him going but won’t leave him bloated or cause other GI issues.
- Mike just got his personalized nutrition results from GenoPalate™, a genetic test that offers nutrition recommendations. He and his wife just retired and are looking to get serious about their nutrition and lifestyle. According to his results, his should be eating moderately high total carbohydrates, moderately low total fat, and moderately high protein. As well as macronutrients, he should also be incorporating high consumption of zinc, vitamin A, E, D and vitamin B6.
- Sarah wants to eat right. But at nearly 86 years old, she isn’t always as hungry as she used to be. Worse, she’s finding some of her favorite foods are harder to swallow. She knows that it’s important to keep getting calories and nutrients, especially protein, but she has grown so tired of drinking her dinners in the form of meal-replacement shakes.
As these examples show, consumers are beginning to understand that they can help maximize the efficiency of the nutrients they take in by focusing on certain attributes. They are also realizing that what is most important to their health today may not be the same story tomorrow, whether because of advancing age or disease or simply a change in their routines. And when it comes to delivering these functional foods, consumers have options — and so do companies in how they choose to deliver the goods.
Customized Nutrition Companies
Some food companies are creating new opportunities in the customized food market by linking their goods and services with the best that today’s technology companies can provide.
The personalized nutrition trend is expanding beyond adult consumers with the next frontier of personalized nutrition expects to be in early life nutrition. According to Mintel, “parents are ready for this technological leap. In the US, 27% of parents are using a health tracker app for their child and 33% have tried a virtual doctor for their child’s health.”2
Yumi is an early life nutrition company built to “support parents with nutrition first meals, snacks for babies and toddlers with enriching content tailed to every developmental milestone.” The offer options in eight stages that feature purees with various textures and bites and puffs with over 100 ingredient options including chia seed, flax seed, spirulina, kale, quinoa, black beans and dates. According to their website, parents would need “4x the number of squeeze pouches per day to get the same nutrients as Yumi.”
Yumi’s plan offers from plans ranging from 8 to 24 jars weekly from $112 per month to $360 per month depending on units per delivery and weekly or monthly billing.
Another idea is 3D printing. BeeHex’s Chef 3D printer can be programmed to print pizza in any shape the user desires, and it can also print different crust and cheese types, making it appealing to consumers who are looking to avoid gluten or dairy. Biozoon, meanwhile, created a 3D printing system that can create personalized smooth food for elderly people with dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing. As this technology improves and machines become able to print and cook food in one pass, 3D printing should only become more useful in delivering personalized nutrition.