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Harnessing the power of tech and AI to serve the personalised nutrition consumer

Article-Harnessing the power of tech and AI to serve the personalised nutrition consumer

© iStock/Leylay no Harnessing the power of tech and AI to serve the personalised nutrition consumer
Innovation in the personalised nutrition sector needs a complete makeover, harnessing the power of big data to better serve the consumer and create products that are accessible to all.

This was just one of the points made during a webinar earlier this month, entitled “The future of nutrition is served”, co-hosted by publisher tks and the personalised nutrition platform Qina.

Moderated by Mariette Abrahams, CEO and founder of Qina, the session brought together experts from different fields to capture their perspectives “in terms of not only what's happening in the industry, but also what companies can do in the industry”.

Personalised nutrition trends: The move towards service-based solutions

In terms of trends, survey-based products and services are still “the mainstay of the personalised nutrition industry”, Abrahams said.

However, Qina has also tracked some interesting shifts, with increased interest – and investment – in areas including metabolites, DNA services, and the microbiome.

“We see this movement into [a] more proactive health trend where consumers are looking at not only where they are in terms of their physiological health, but also what they can actually do about it,” she said.

Metabolic health, food as medicine, and gut health are all growing categories, but the biggest contrast was seen in the increase in service-led solutions: Qina tracked a 41% increase in companies adding services to their offering, which can ranger from meal plans, to recipes, to education.

“This really means that it's moving from just a product-led market to including more services, and the services [are] also at the intersection of technology, where we are not only trying to get data from the consumer but also then provide more personalised advice, and evolve the advice and the recommendations and the solutions that are subsequently given to consumers,” Abrahams said.So it's a very interesting shift in the market that we are seeing.

The tech revolution: Asking the right questions

This bi-directional relationship is just one signal of how technology is revolutionising the entire food system, said Henrik Stamm Kristensen, founder of the food production platform Blendhub.

He stated that he believes “traditional innovation is deadbecause people are justreinventing the same recipe over and over again”.

Technological advances have opened up all sorts of exciting new possibilities – but they bring challenges, too.

“Artificial intelligence is here to stay and it's getting 10 times smarter every six months,” Stamm Kristensen said. “And right now, it's already smarter than us. So if we don't start collaborating as humans, I think we will be missing out big time.

Francisco Zaplana Sánchez, a consultant in data and digital strategy at Spanish IT agency Teralco, drew attention to the challenges of technology integration. He said that while it was a strategic priority for many companies, “very few know where to start”.

He said:They are very lost. They know about utilisation, they know about AI, but they don't know how to start implementing it.”

There were many questions that needed to be answered before any transformation could take place – and often, people are looking in the wrong place, he explained.

“For example, one company comes [to me] to say, how can I engage with my customers? I'm losing customers,” he said. “First of all, you need to go to the current business and [identify] what things are you doing right or wrong, because technology is not the solution – it is a way to provide more value to your customers…

“I start with the company and say, why are you using technology? For which purpose are you doing technology? Technology doesn't solve anything if you don't have the correct question.”

Creating shared value in the food industry

Stamm Kristensen discussed the importance of transparency, saying that he was “completely convinced that the future “is platform-based”.

He added: The problem right now is that the personal egos of individuals around the world – they want to solve everything themselves. So we have a very big class of two cultures – that is, winner takes all versus winners share everything.

He argued that people and organisations that share personal values needed to be willing to work together to create “transparently shared value”.

He explained: “It's speeding up processes, because that means that we don't have to do everything ourselves, and the company spirit in this extremely conservative food industry is all based on, ‘I want to win’, ‘I want to do’, ‘I want to compete.’ [...] It's completely ridiculous. Because nobody [is] winning. And certainly what we see today, with three billion people suffering malnutrition, society is losing and [the] planet is losing.

He added: “That is really the challenge for humans right now – that if we don't start working together, somebody else will do it much faster, much better, much cheaper than we're doing today.

Accessibility and affordability: The power of data

Another aspect of these technological advances, however, is that personalised nutrition is becoming more accessible, Stamm Kristensen argued.

© iStock/oonalHarnessing the power of tech and AI to serve the personalised nutrition consumer

“I think that this is the most amazing moment in history, because everything is possible… Small and medium enterprises are now capable of creating the same food products with the same safety, the same security, the same compliance, the same everything as the multinationals have been able to do over the last 100 years,” he said. So we are very excited about the future of personalised nutrition because now everyone can do it.

Abrahams agreed that the consumer had to be at the heart of innovation, pointing to the power of big data to advance the sector.

“Innovation needs a complete makeover, because the way that we've been doing it before needs a new approach, which is way more consumer-centric,” she said. “And we really need to be far more data-driven, and specific, and accurate in how we develop products that can be accessible to all.”