How far have we come in the Personalised Nutrition industry?

Jun 21, 2022 12:00am

A look at the PERSONALISED NUTRITION industry to date – an interview with Mariette Abrahams CEO & Founder of Qina- The hub for data and insights in Personalised nutrition.


  1. What is the current status of insights in the usefulness of PN services?

The personalised nutrition market has experienced significant growth over the last couple of years. Along with this, came  a variety of offerings across several industries. Usefulness of a product or solution is dependent on the person as well on how actionable and understandable the advice given is. For individuals, usefulness could be influenced by levels of self-efficacy, literacy, health goals and levels of motivation. For instance, a nutrigenetic test report can mean very little when it is not explained in the context of your life, your current health state and current habits. There has not been a great deal of consumer research done on the usefulness of PN solutions, and we have even less when we look at the long-term health and behavioural outcomes. However, with a current heightened interest in nutrition and health, there is a great opportunity to understand better which insights are most effective to lead to the desired health and behaviour outcomes through a personalised approach.

 Overall, the solutions need to be simple and clear, if consumers are going to gain any usefulness from it. The evidence that a personalised approach actually works is starting to build, but we still have a long way to go.

 In order to increase usefulness of products the recommendations should be focused on holistic health and fit into everyday of consumers. This needs to happen effortlessly without disrupting having to change individual habits enormously. This will require new partnerships not only between companies but also with public and non-profit organizations.

A better understanding of consumer profiles, transparency in terms of recommendations, healthcare UX and better collaboration with health professionals will need to be addressed if is usefulness is going to be a priority.


  1. What are the drivers and barriers for consumers to engage in PN services?

Current drivers are current consumer interest in health and nutrition which is at an all time high. Furthermore, as the market grows consumers are interested in the variety of solutions suitable for different tastes, preferences and goals that can help them effortlessly from home to work and back.


Current barriers include: low awareness of what personalised nutrition really is, as well as little understanding of the value that a personalised approach can add to their current lives. Cost is an important barrier as consumers are price sensitive and do not want to pay more for a more comprehensive and scientific approach they don’t understand or can integrate into their lives.


Early adopters are driving the market, currently making up a small percentage of mainstream users (around 10%). They skew slightly female, are young educated, technologically engaged, with disposable incomes and high levels of self-efficacy. Whilst engagement is driven by an interest in being pro-active with regards to their health as well as taking care of their families. So in essence, a lack of awareness and benefit of a personalised approach is hindering  engagement.


Unfortunately, early adoptersare not the group that would benefit the most from personalised nutrition approaches. The mainstream consumer that would benefit the most is currently at risk of developing (or already has) a chronic condition, has not adopted healthy behaviours by meeting the national guidelines for healthy eating and activity, or limited access to healthcare. These consumers can come from low social-economic groups but as we are currently witnessing all over the globe, the COVID pandemic is ravaging through entire communities putting individuals and entire families now at risk of food-poverty which is incredibly concerning.


The current epidemic has also laid bare the dramatic disparities that exist especially in countries where there is no universal healthcare. Yet the historical exclusion of minority populations who are at a higher risk of developing chronic diseases in research has meant that we have little evidence to know the best evidence-based approach to improve health through nutrition on a personalised level. New approaches to research, starting from how the trial is designed, to who is conducting the trial, and engaging with minority population groups to improve trust and increase enrolment will need to be addressed. Funding for diverse trials will need to have strict criteria for funding and inclusion to ensure that minority groups are adequately represented, such as recommended by the FDA in the US. Digital trials or decentralized trials are a great new way to reach these groups who may otherwise be excluded, as they may not live near large study centres. I am very excited and optimistic about this area of new research, however it is up to sponsors to ensure this happens.


In that vein, I think that COVID-19 has been a huge trigger for consumers to acknowledge that nutrition plays an enormous role in terms of health and immunity, but the abovementioned barriers will need to be addressed of engagement is going to increase. It is clear from consumer habits that food, nutrition, active lifestyles as well as mental wellbeing is enjoying much higher priority. This will continue into 2021.


  1. How will PN services being offered in the market:


At present the personalized nutrition supplements are forerunners in the industry and this is based on simplicity (surveys) as well as affordability.


Who might benefit most from having PN services as part of their offering and hence may drive the introduction?

Companies and brands who need to consider personalised offerings should be nutritional supplement companies, functional food brands, ingredient companies, digital health as well as sport nutrition brands. The time is now to innovate, communicate and engage consumers responsibly and transparently to improve health. There is a great opportunity for the above companies to get closer to their consumers, understand their needs, conduct research and leverage technologies to gather data, understand behaviour and also help consumers along the path towards better health. However, designing and executing digital projects in an agile and collaborative way, may be counterintuitive to how traditional projects are run. Therefore latching on a personalised offering to existing brands is not the solution. It requires a cultural and organizational shift as well as designing a comprehensive strategy that is consumer and data-driven. It may require the services of external consultants who can objectively product manage and handle part or all of the project, instead of pulling in already overstretched employees to work on “personalisation” as a innovation project.


If and how will the tendency towards collaborative and networked business initiatives help to introduce PN services in society?

At Qina, we believe that a networked approach is the only way to generate new data, unlock new value, develop new business models and move towards a less transactional healthcare relationship. With nutrition and health being complex areas, it is unlikely for 1 player to do it all, and do it well. However, this approach is still new and will require a paradigm shift in how new business models are created, and ensure that the network is sustainable. The potential with networks is that the network can be modified and evolve in an agile way, depending on the needs and demands of the local community. However, this needs to be data-driven and all stakeholders should be willing to share data to get a clearer view of which priorities need to be addressed first.


Will Personalized Nutrition services led to personalized foods?

While there are experts that believe that personalized foods created by 3D printing is the future, I don’t share that view. Recent research has shown that over the last decade our dietary fiber intake has increased very little, and that is such an easy thing to get right first, so there is a lot of work still to do. While I agree that our food consumption will be more targeted and informed, as humans I think our natural response is to eat food we grew up with, that provides comfort, that nourishes, that looks and tastes good. Consumers want real food, but they need help to better navigate the wide range of offerings in terms of how to select and combine food components to create a tasty meal that is nutritious, on-budget, easy and (may) have health benefits. Yet there will most certainly be a market for those who want completely personalised foods.


If and how will the rapidly changing societal context influence the introduction and uptake of Personalised nutrition services at a population scale?

Consumers and governments are ready to listen, so the current situation has already led to some countries making changes to how they address important challenges such as access to healthcare and affordable food. One prime example is the UK who have instigated a weight loss strategy, as those who suffered with COVID-19 and were obese had poorer outcomes. While it may be a move to “do something”, this approach does not address the underlying hurdles and challenges individuals face when they are looking to manage their weight. Consumers need personalised advice provided by nutrition and healthcare experts who can help them with regards to both food and lifestyle behaviour changes using an evidence-based approach. This means that governments will need to fund personalised nutrition services if it will have any effect on populations scale.


What impact would prolonged covid-19 effects have on the integration of PN services in health management?

Consumers will increasingly select foods based on their nutritional quality and health properties.

Consumers will also continue to use nutritional supplements as a way to boost their intake and finally physical activity will become mainstream. The prolonged COVID situation will make digital health a permanent fixture in health management and consumers and practitioners will increasingly rely on online tools to provid and receive feedback, access recommendation as well as track important data points such as physical activity, mood and food.


Could the use of PN services become part of the new normal?

It could, however, not all solutions are at a price-point where it is accessible for all. Therefore,  unless it is adequately funded and evidence-based, we run the risk of it staying niche. Consumers want proof that a solution works for them, so companies and brands will need to ensure that they invest in research but also provide the right solution for each user or group of users which needs to be based on data.


What would or should authorities and regulators do in response to the development of a PN services market? 

  1. Learn from current consumer behaviour ie consumers are looking for credible and reliable sources of information. These online and offline sources need to be regulated and therefore more stringent regulation should be placed on organizations and companies that publish dangerous and misleading nutritional information that can cause serious harm.
  2. Involve diverse stakeholders from different population and community groups to ensure that nutrition & health programmes are inclusive and representative
  3. Fund inclusive research in healthy and at risk individuals to ensure that those who would benefit the most, can access affordable solutions early.
  4. Regulate products to: differentiate evidence-based nutrition products; ensure transparency; ensure quality to build trust; increase accessibility and equality
  5. Educate the next generation of healthcare professionals with a focus to collaborate, prevent and treat
  6. Reimburse preventative and personalised healthcare. Make healthy living the easy choice, and allow the public to access nutrition experts when they are ready to change, not when they are symptomatic.


As a final comment, what can we look forward to?

In my view, the personalised nutrition industry is now in the spotlight, and it is up to all stakeholders to ensure that this growth happens safely, sustainably and equitably. I believe that the healthy habits that have been adopted during theses COVID times will have a lasting effect, and that the pandemic has led to a paradigm shift in people’s behaviours and consciousness in terms of the role and importance of healthy behaviours. I think the future for personalised nutrition is bright, and I am thrilled that we are leading the way on helping companies and frontline practitioners to make the necessary shifts to prepare for a personalised future.

Qina is the hub for data and insights in Personalized nutrition. Qina offers the world´s first comprehensive and curated database of Perzonalised nutrition companies in the industry. Qina has a library of expert content and offers consultancy services for innovation projects.

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Qina is the hub for data and insights in Personalised nutrition. Qina offers the world´s first comprehensive and curated database of Personalised nutrition companies in the industry. Qina has a library of expert content and offers consultancy services for innovation projects.