“Personalization is about consumers ‘taking back control’,” said Julian Mellentin, director of New Nutrition Business and author of the report titled '10 Key Trends in Food, Nutrition and Health 2017.'
“They want to feel more empowered and confident to create their own healthy eating patterns. It goes hand-in-hand with growing awareness that diet is a personal matter – and it’s another stage in the long slow death of ‘one size fits all’ dietary recommendations.”
This year saw the launch of numerous personalized nutrition start-ups, from DayTwo, which looks at stool samples to tailor diets based on a users’ gut microbes, to STYR Labs, which tracks a user’s exercise activity to not only recommend, but also create and send packets of personalized supplements based on the user’s athletic behavior, which the user can subscribe to.
Investments from big companies
Though the start-up scene is dominating this segment of the nutrition industry, big names have jumped in the pool too. Campbell Soup is investing $32m in Habit, a personalized nutrition and meal delivery company set to launch in 2017.
“The entire food industry is being transformed by the fusion of food, well-being and technology. Habit is well positioned in this wired for well-being space and poised to lead the personalized nutrition category,” said Denise Morrison, president and CEO of Campbell Soup Co.
“Campbell’s investment is part of our broader efforts to define the future of food, which requires fresh thinking, new models of innovation, smart external development and venture investing to create an ecosystem of innovative partners.”
To eat or not to eat?
According to David Katz, founding director of Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, there’s value in the evolving science of personalized nutrition, especially in a time where consumers feel like nutritional advice keeps changing.
“If people stay confused about what a healthy diet is, you can keep selling the next and the next and the next diet book. And our culture has been making a ton of money out of sowing confusion, while the food industry has been exploiting the messages of experts and turning them into nonsense,” he told FoodNavigator-USA at the reThink Food conference in Napa Valley.
“The fundamentals of a health-promoting diet for our species are common to us all... but the customization is the icing on the cake," he said, adding that personalized advice could prove far more impactful than generic public health advice. “Advice that’s unique to you is more motivating.”