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Working with nutrition professionals in product development

Nutritionists and dietitians play an influential role at consumer level, and are also at the forefront when it comes to understanding evolving needs and trends. More and more brands and ingredient manufacturers are leaning into the expertise of nutritionists and dietitians to inform product development. In this three-part series, we explore the partnership between industry and nutrition professionals around the formulation, refinement, and selling phases.

Enlisting a nutrition professional at the start of a product development journey for supplements or new foods can significantly increase the chance of successfully bringing a credible product to a saturated market and making it appealing to investors and customers.

With access to nutrition research and information on our news feeds and at our finger tips 24/7 and with many people taking a keen interest in nutrition, it may seem that you don’t need expertise to formulate a nutrition product.

Issues that arise from not enlisting a nutrition professional in the early stages include:

  • Multiple re-formulations as you discover that the presentation you have chosen for your product (gummy, sachet, pill) won’t accommodate the volume of product you need to have the desired effect or your product cannot be made palatable
  • Claims you want to make not meeting regulatory standards
  • The research behind active ingredients or claims being too weak and won’t stand up to public scrutiny
  • Lower chance of investment due to a lack of credentials in the team

While a new ingredient or idea may seem really exciting, companies entering the nutrition space need to appreciate that for a product to stand the test of time and not be a one time purchase, it needs to have a discernible effect. Users need to achieve the outcomes that have been promised to them in order for them to become loyal customers and share their experience. Furthermore, without careful formulation and consideration, products won’t be recommended by professionals in the nutrition space and won’t meet the requirements to be stocked in reputable retailers. Depending on your long term marketing strategy, it is important to consider these factors.

Typically, this comes down to engaging a nutrition professional in the early stages, deciding what you want to achieve and your target audience before you set your heart on a particular ingredient. If your starting point is a particular ingredient, a nutrition professional can help you to land on the ideal presentation based on an efficacious dose for your target audience.

When considering which nutrition professional to work with, it is important to remember that credentials are key. Broadly, those selling nutritional expertise will fall into three groups:

  1. Dietitians dietitians are registered and regulated healthcare professionals and as such, have undertaken a degree in nutrition and dietetics which includes mandatory hospital training. Dietitians mostly work in healthcare settings.
  2. Nutritionists the term ‘nutritionist’ isn’t a protected title so it is very important that you check that any nutritionist has undertaken an accredited degree in nutrition. In some countries they will be called registered nutritionist. Typically, nutritionists work with the food industry or in public health.
  3. Nutritional therapists Nutritional therapists are part of the alternative or complimentary therapy space. Nutritional Therapy is not a degree programme and therefore the evidence based practice and research skills are less of a priority. Nutritional therapists typically work with individuals who want to take a less conventional approach.

Choosing the right professional for your brand is important. Nutrition is a broad field and working with a professional without expertise relevant to your product or target audience may be detrimental to your long term goals. In the same way that you wouldn’t see a gynaecologist for a respiratory problem, you wouldn’t want a dietitian who specialises in the gut to work on a product or service for people with diabetes. This is because each field of nutritional research requires you you to have in-depth knowledge of the subject area to enable you to contextualise new publications and research findings with the body of literature relevant to your field. It is not possible for most people to retain enough information to be a true specialist in more than one or two areas of nutrition research.

Once you have chosen your target audience or established the basics of what you want to achieve with your product and enlisted your nutrition professional, they can now undertake the relevant research to find the optimal formulation to achieve the outcomes you are aiming for.

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