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Holland & Barrett on its ‘customer-first, science-first’ R&D strategy [Interview]

Article-Holland & Barrett on its ‘customer-first, science-first’ R&D strategy [Interview]

© Vitafoods Insights Holland & Barrett on its ‘customer-first, science-first’ R&D strategy [Interview]
Holland & Barrett takes a co-ordinated approach to new product development, embracing new technologies and new ways of reaching consumers, from AI to TikTok, says Alex Glover, nutrition development lead for R&D at the retailer, who will be speaking at the Vitafoods Europe Future of Nutrition summit.

Holland & Barrett International is a leading health and wellness retailer and the largest in Europe, supplying its customers with a wide range of vitamins, minerals, health supplements, specialist foods, and natural beauty products. Alex Glover, nutrition development lead for R&D at Holland & Barrett, will be at the Vitafoods Europe Future of Nutrition Summit to share his insights into this fast-moving sector.

Our approach is very much customer first, and science first,” he says. “If there is a customer trend, then we want to react in a way that is evidence-based, and for our solutions to be informed by science. This is important for building trust. There is growing scepticism and hesitancy among consumers when it comes to health and wellness, and I think this is good.

Holland & Barrett has an entire team dedicated to trends and insights. New product development involves numerous teams working together, in order to take consumer insights and cutting-edge science from the concept board to the shelf. “We are constantly asking ourselves what problem we are trying to solve,” says Glover. “Another important question is: how can we make it easy for consumers to implement this product in their life?

Tech in the health and wellness sector

The Summit will touch upon the implementation of technology in the health and wellness sector. “AI [artificial intelligence] is certainly an interesting possibility,” says Glover. “I’m not a part of the tech team, but I am aware that there are lots of ongoing initiatives into how we can leverage this technology in order to better translate science papers. It can be very easy to get drowned in science papers when you are trying to find answers.

Glover notes that Holland & Barrett has started conducting in-store blood testing. This is an example of how the implementation of technology can open up new avenues and services for consumers, and shows how businesses can move away from just being product-led businesses.

A key question is always whether these technologies can add value or benefit,” says Glover. “It is also important to note how they resonate with the customer, and what the benefit is for them.

Engaging with consumers

Glover notes that consumers want to be informed, and have access to far more information than ever before. A key challenge of course is that not all these sources of information are trustworthy. This underlines the importance of building trust, and being able to reach your target customer in a crowded field.

There is so much information out there,” says Glover. “We often see people receiving advice from so-called experts outside their sphere of expertise.

The challenge for businesses like Holland & Barrett, says Glover, is not only to champion evidence-based nutrition and science, but to create content that resonates with consumers. “You need to reach people through media that they understand,” he says.

This might be social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok. Evidence-based science can still be funny and engaging, and some scientists are starting to do this, by tweeting their research, and not just publishing it in academic papers that consumers are not going to read. This is the biggest gap – the creation of bite-size content that is easily consumable and talks to consumers in a language they understand.