For this podcast episode, Philipp Merk, co-founder of LOEWI, a spin off start-up company, joined us to share more about personalised nutrition and the work LOEWI is doing to take push innovation within the industry and meet consumers’ specific needs for achieving optimal results.
Tune in to hear about:
- The importance of discussing personalised nutrition
- LOEWI’s funding story and mission
- Why consumers benefit from focusing more on a personalised approach
- How can blood tests be used as a metric for consumers to keep an eye on their nutritional progress and goals
- LOEWI’s education and knowledge sharing
- LOEWI’s next steps in expanding the business with DNA and microbiome space
Join us at Vitafoods Europe 2022, where we will be covering more on personalised nutrition including 'Getting personal: How the pharma/nutra crossover is affecting the personalised nutrition space' with a panel of speakers from Mintel, Bayer, Vitcheck and more! Taking place on Wednesday 11 May. Register now for free.
If you like the show, make sure to subscribe and follow the Vitafoods Insights podcast. Feel free also to recommend the show to a friend that you think would enjoy it.
Vitafoods Insights 00:05
Welcome to the Vitafoods Insights Podcast. Join us as we explore the latest science innovation, helping the global health and nutrition industry connect, develop and progress. Today's host is Natalia Franca Rocha, content producer.
Hello, and welcome to another Vitafoods Insights Podcast episode. Today we'll be talking about personalised nutrition and I'm delighted to be joined by Philipp Merk, who is co-founder of LOEWI. Thank you for joining us today Philipp.
Thank you so much for having me.
So, to get us started on the topic of personalised nutrition, can you share with our listeners why is personalised nutrition an important topic to be discussed?
Absolutely. I think in order to understand why personalised nutrition is so important, we first have to look at what are actually the things regarding our health that we have in our own control? So, it's exercise, like, the sports we do. It's regeneration, sleep, meditation, and it's nutrition. So, these are the three things we actually have in our own hands, but we can actually decide how it's going to affect our health. With nutrition, it's very obvious. I mean, if you look at a large person, they usually need more than a smaller person. So we are all incredibly unique people with unique goals, unique lifestyles. And this is why personalisation plays such a big role in nutrition. Because we have so many options out there, and really finding what suits you, and what gives you the best health effects is so so important. And this is why personalised nutrition should be of everybody's concern.
Absolutely. And what about LOEWI? What is the story behind the founding of LOEWI and what makes your solution different than others on the market?
We actually started LOEWI because we were kind of frustrated ourselves of what's going on in the nutrition market, and especially in the supplementation market. My co-founder and me, we were, like, really trying to get the most out of our health. And at some point, you will just end up using different supplements. I feel this is just how it goes, you know, like, you, you're getting into health, and then you read some blogs, you get your Vitamin D supplements, etc. And at some point, we had a lot of different supplements that we were taking, and really wondering and questioning, is this really the right way? Are we actually improving our health? Or are we just throwing out money? Or even taking some stuff that might actually be harmful to our health? So how do we actually know that this is working? And out of this very personal frustration, we got in touch with this idea to see what's going on inside of your body, and then actually do something that's really tailor made to our individual needs. But luckily, we met up with the professor from technical university Munich, who had kind of a similar approach. And we teamed up to build LOEWI and take away this guesswork that still exists today in the supplement industry and make it as transparent and as individual as possible. I like to compare it with you close your eyes, you press your finger and really hope very much that it works. We really measure in the blood, what's going on, what's missing, maybe also what's too much like, where do you already have enough? And we get a questionnaire to see, hey, what's your goal is? do you have any pre existing conditions that might interfere with, with your nutrients? And based on this, we build something that's 100% unique to yourself. I have my supplement mix here, it's a one of a kind, it will never be produced for any other person than me. And also for myself, it will change over time. And the cool thing is, at any point in time, you can actually go and check if it's working. So you can do another blood test, and you get the proof that this stuff is good for your health. It's much hoping, not guessing. And I think that's what makes it so fantastic because for the first time you're in control as the user. We also have an app where you can basically constantly track your progress. And you know what's going on and what's happening. And I think that's what makes it LOEWI unique, and I think is still a very unique approach in the industry, but definitely an approach that we're gonna see more and more in the coming future.
Yeah, that sounds so cool. Actually, it really brings consumers to take more ownership and responsibility for their holistic wellbeing. But how does personalised vitamins and minerals differ from other products available in the market? I mean, why should consumers benefit from focusing more on a personalised approach?
I think there are a couple of reasons. I mean, first of all, if we look really what's inside, with a personalised approach, you can be sure that you're not taking anything that's remotely harmful. Just a very simple example, if you're taking warfarin, very common anticoagulant medication, and you take high dose vitamin K, the Vitamin K is actually, like, reducing the effect of your medication, which is crazy, you know, like you don't even know, and your medication is not working or working less. And with a personalised approach, that's, for example, something that we would detect in a questionnaire, and we would make sure there's nothing in the mix that might be harmful. So, I think that's, at least for my, my personal wellbeing, and for my sleep at night, this is a really big point, because I can be sure that whoever is taking LOEWI, they're not going to be worse off. That's the starting point. And the next step is that really, everybody gets exactly what they need, not too much, not too little, we're not playing the numbers game, and trying to always increase the dosages. But we are giving you the dosage that works for you. A very interesting example with my co-founder, Adrien, we actually started out at the same vitamin D level, and he's now in order to get to the same level, taking five times the amount of vitamin D that I do. If I would take it, that way too much for me, and I actually be harmed by it, because I had too much. And for him, it's the right dosage. So that's another very important point that it's really personalised and also you get the effect that you need. Because if Adrian would take a standardised supplements, you would never reach the optimum area, it would never be enough. And that's in last but not least, also the way you take it, I mean, that's just for the product we use. It's a granular, and you take one spoon a day. So it's also very, very convenient, because you don't need to take what I was previously doing - five, six different pills a day; one in the morning, one during lunch, one after sports. I just take one spoon in the morning, and that's it. And I don't need to worry, and I don't need to feel like a patient that needs to take pills all day. And they can just relax and sit back and know, hey, my nutrients are being taken care of, and all this good.
That sounds really interesting. And I guess also, it might create curiosity from a consumer perspective to try and understand their blood and all the nutrients inside their blood, which brings me to my next question, because testing can be confusing for consumers. So, what are the benefits of having a blood test? And how often should consumers take a blood test to keep up with the most optimal product personalization?
We probably have to differentiate here between what's the scientific benefit, and what's the customer benefit? Scientifically speaking, I mean, blood tests are really the gold standard. If you look at scientific literature, which analyses different vitamins, effects of different supplements, you're always going to measure it in the blood, because you just know black and white, hey, this is how it is, and you're not guessing. So, I think that's one big factor for it, why the blood test is so important, because it's just scientifically the most valid biomarkers, and a lot of them but if you pick the right ones, that's something that has to be added. And on the other hand, for the consumer, yes, it adds another step, which of course makes the process longer, it makes it a little bit more difficult than if you just buy an off the shelf product. But it has a couple of advantages. I mean, first of all, you know that it's been personalised to yourself, you get the explanations of what's going on inside of your body. So, we don't only show the blood parameters, but we also have this so-called LOEWI score, which is kind of health score and shows you how well are your nutrients at the moment, how good are the levels at the moment? This also gives you a benchmark, I think that's extremely important. You started a level and then you test again. And you can see in which direction did it develop. And I think even if you, if you don't understand every last detail of blood test and understand every parameter, just having this benchmark and seeing, hey, I started with a LOEWI score of 60, and now I'm at a LOEWI score of 95. This really shows there's progress, there's improvement. And I really think people, myself very, very much included, I want to see progress. I want to see that I'm doing something good for my body, good for my health. And I think this only works if you have a benchmark. And in this case, blood test is the benchmark. And regarding how often you should take the test? It's three to six months is the best range. This has a couple of reasons and the most important one being that your body takes roughly two to two and a half months to reach the steady state. So, if you start at a deficiency or a low blood level, then, then your blood levels will rise very fast in the beginning and that this rise will slow and come to an halt at some point. This is called the steady state. So, if you don't change the dosage, then you will stay at this blood level. And this has been reached after, roughly, two and a half months. So, with a little bit of buffer, such as three to six months. And then it's really honestly, in the end, up to you. I mean, we work with a lot of elite athletes, which really test every three months because they want to be, like, precisely at the right range for each nutrient. And then we have people that test you know, like, they do the first test, the second test, and then they test, for example, every six to 12 months, just to make sure, hey, I'm still in the optimum range. It also depends a little bit on your needs and on your ambition.
Yeah, that's really cool to hear. I mean, I'm sure consumers with a goal in mind, it must be rewarding for them to be able to quantify progress. And I suppose measuring their blood levels, nutrients levels might be able to do just that. And is there any interest in extending into DNA or more blood tests to expand the business?
Yes, there is. We actually have launched a research project together with the University of Zurich, where we're building up the capabilities for DNA and microbiome, and also wearables. So, we believe that in the future, this will be very interesting additions to the blood test and the questionnaire. So, regarding DNA and microbiome, we are still in very early stages when it comes to the science. So, we are still having a very hard time actually deducting concrete steps what you should do. So, if you take it in a test, then actually doing something very concrete with it, it's pretty difficult because you have genetics, you have epigenetics, which kind of is an uncertainty factor for if a certain gene is actually switched on or not. So, it makes it very hard. There are a couple of things that are very interesting in DNA. For example, if coffee is a good idea before competition for athletes. That's something where you can actually get a really good idea already. Nowadays, with DNA the same for microbiome, we know that it's extremely valuable. But we still have a hard time to say, okay, if we have this result, then you need to do exactly this, and then you're going to end up here. So there's still a lot of research going on. But we want to be ready when the research is ripe. And we can actually make a lot of use with it. So just chronologically, the next step for us is going to be variables, because that's very tangible, and very exciting to correlate it with the blood data and the questionnaire data. And then after this, we will follow with DNA, because there's already quite a couple of things that can be interesting. And especially if you if you combine it with blood data, it gets very interesting. But standalone DNA, that's something, that's, we are still very, very critical of. We think there's still a lot of time and research that needs to be done. So yeah, that's our view on this. But we are working on this. We are building up the scientific capabilities. But we will only launch this if we're really certain that it will add value to our customers and not just for the for the sake of it.
Certainly, sciences evolving. And it's cool to hear that you're looking to explore into even more personalization into DNA. But science can be confusing. So I was also wondering how this LOEWI educate its consumers on the benefits and the science of personalised nutrition?
I actually think this is probably the toughest part of personalised nutrition because so far, like, if you explain like how personalised nutrition works, it's pretty obvious that it makes sense. It's not a question of belief that you believe in it or not, it makes sense. But it's difficult to understand. And I think even more a lot of people don't even know that it exists, like, something like personalised supplements, for example. It's still very niche, and we're still not a massive company that everybody knows. So I think it's the biggest challenge that we have to actually educate people. And first of all, show that it's possible and show also how it's been done so that you get the trust, and that you really believe this is the way to go. I mean there are a couple of ways how we approach this. I mean, one is really articles in our online magazine on loewi.com. Taking part in different fairs or like a podcast like this where we can reach people, show them, hey, this is out there, maybe have a look at it. I think we have very good, like, educational videos on our YouTube channel. And if you decide to really try LOEWI, then of course, in the whole process and the whole app experience, you get a lot of background information. We know that not everybody is reading through all the info we give them. But I think, really, this part of understanding what's going on inside of your body it's so incredibly important. And this is why in every step, and every touchpoint that you have with us, you will get the information that you need. And you will also get the sources. So, so everything we link with the scientific literature etc so that you can really, like, dig deep if you want. And if you're really nerdy, you can live your full scientist’s dream.
Yeah, I'm sure there are consumers out there who would appreciate being able to follow through and reading all the science behind the benefits and all the claims as well. Well, thank you so much, Philipp, for providing us with such great insights today. I'm sure it's also been very interesting to our audience to learn more about LOEWI, its founding story, the market differentiation, as well as the consumer education consideration. I'm sure they appreciate it. So, thank you for that. And before we end the show, do you have any final thoughts that you'd like to share with our listeners?
Yeah, I think most people that listen to this, they're kind of in the food space. So, I think just questioning and maybe also trying to do one diagnostic test yourself and see, hey, am I there where I want to be? I think that's a really cool idea to have and to kind of reflect on. And that's how I started with LOEWI because I was doing my stuff and I was questioning: is this the right way? Or should I maybe check where I'm standing and where I want to go? And I think that's maybe just an inspiration for the listeners to just check where you are, think about where you want to go and see if you're on track. That's what personalised nutrition is all about.
That's a really great way to end the show with an action point for our listeners to question themselves and their goals and their progress. So, thanks again, Philipp, for coming on the show. And thank you also to our listeners for tuning in. If you're interested to learn more about LOEWI, make sure to check their website hyperlink available in the show notes. And if you do like the show, make sure to subscribe, follow our podcast. Feel free also to recommend the show to any friends or colleagues who you think would like it. That's it for now. Thank you again, so much, Philip, and thank you our listeners for tuning in, and see you next time.
Thank you so much. It was a lot of fun.