Natural Marketing Institute’s Personalized Nutrition: Health via ‘The Power of Me’ – published by Informa, NPI Publishing in Feb 2020

There is a continued growing consumer desire for personal autonomy and self-discovery. Over the past several years we have witnessed an acceleration of personalization across a wide range of industries. From Nike’s personalized sneakers to individualized suggestions for music and videos on Spotify and Netflix to beauty companies like Clinique offering customized skin care and makeup, one of a kind products and services are all the rage. This ‘made for me’ mindset enables consumers to tap into a culture of one-of-a-kind goods and services that are tailored-suited and are purported to offer greater benefits because they are created for an individual’s specific needs.

Not surprisingly, this trend extends to the health and wellness industry as well. Personalized nutrition is big business – some estimates say that the market could reach $11.5 billion by 2025 (Axiom) while UBS suggests the industry could generate annual revenues as high as $64 billion by 2040.

Dozens and dozens of companies have recently entered this marketplace, from small start-ups to large multi-national corporations, from low tech to high tech. A growing trend in the industry is in the area of nutrigenomics – the science of studying the relationship between human genome, nutrition and health. Companies assess a consumer’s DNA or microbiomes with the goal of understanding the specifics of an individual’s body science and recommend a dietary plan or supplement regime to most efficiently benefit their health. As an example, Nestle recently piloted its “Nestle Wellness Ambassador” in Japan. The program combines information from DNA and blood tests with consumer uploaded photos of foods they have eaten, all of which is then analyzed via AI technology to recommend capsules for nutrient-rich teas or smoothies that are similar to those used in Nestle’s Nespresso machines. The emergence of technology in this industry has facilitated these breakthroughs and offers consumers a hands-on approach to control their own health by using apps, trackers and other tech devices to assess their goals and monitor progress.

Supplements – a market where one size does not fit all

Supplements is another market ripe with personalization opportunities. NMI’s Global Supplements, OTC, RX Database® (SORD) highlights consumers’ attitudes and behaviors toward a wide array of issues related to trends in dietary supplement usage. These insights, gleaned from a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults trended since 2005, provides an understanding of the attitudes, motivations and behaviors surrounding the intersection of supplements, OTC products and pharmaceuticals.

The current database shows that almost half of all U.S. consumers are interested in a home blood test to measure deficiencies or a DNA test to determine personal nutritional needs. As shown in Figure 1, there is significantly more interest among those under age 50.

Figure 1: % consumers indicating they are very/somewhat interested in these products

Source: NMI’s Supplements, OTC, Rx Database® (SORD)

Furthermore, over six in ten supplement users show strong interest in personalized supplements. There is a clear ‘need state’ for personalized supplements as even the most ardent supplement user reports they have issues with uncertainty and confusion regarding supplements, including if supplements are actually doing what they are supposed to do and what supplements they should be using to ensure peak health. In fact, 75% of supplement users report that they would pay a premium if a product was personalized to their needs. Notable is that almost half of supplement users have discussed the supplements they use with their doctor and have asked for advice about which supplements to use, suggesting a potential opportunity of using healthcare professionals as a gateway to broach the subject of personalized nutrition.

When consumers were asked if they would be interested in a multi-vitamin that is personalized to their needs (specific levels of nutrients based on their age, gender, health and diet), NMI’s Health & Wellness segmentation (Figure 2) provides additional insight, as the WELL BEINGS segment is most interested – 50% higher than general population America.

Figure 2: NMI’s Health & Wellness Segmentation

All in, with reservations

Yet while consumers are keen on personalization, they do have concerns about what exactly they would have to provide to a company in order to obtain a personalized nutritional product. Particularly in this age of data breaches and security concerns, consumers may be hesitant to part with personal medical information. Providing as much confidence as possible by demonstrating proof of safety to ensure protection of personal records will help to allay such concerns, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: % supplement users indicating which of the items they would be concerned about providing to a company if they are customizing a nutritional product

Source: NMI’s Supplements, OTC, Rx Database® (SORD)

A brave new world with both opportunities and limitations

The opportunities for the personalized nutrition industry are huge and we have likely just seen the tip of the iceberg. As technology continues to advance, new breakthroughs will offer an ever-growing array of options for consumers seeking to improve their health. There are opportunities for alliances across industries as these needs will be met by not only the tech industry but the food and medical industries as well.

But beware that consumers are skeptical and have been bombarded by decades of fad diets and in-vogue regimens that come and go on a whim or established dietary guidelines which are ‘disproven’ with new data. Consumers are often not sure who or what to believe and need a trusted and reliable source to offer proven and verifiable results. But with the right alignment of information, an increasingly sophisticated consumer, like the WELL BEINGS, will enthusiastically embrace new options as they attempt to take greater control of their health and wellness.

Natural Marketing Institute is an international strategic consulting, market research, and business development firm specializing in the health, wellness, and sustainability marketplace.