By Ida Kleinau Andersson
The revolutionising concept of Personalised Nutrition and its individually tailored diets possesses multiple promises for society such as preventing diseases. Still, the commercialisation of the concept has had a slow progress. My master thesis from Lund University, in collaboration with Healthy Marketing Team, have identified 5 commercial barriers within personalised nutrition. The question is: how can these be faced?
Dietary advice has traditionally been based on the ”one-size fits all” approach. However, this can be about to change when advances in science and technology open for Personalised nutrition, which is dietary advice tailored to individuals’ needs. By collecting and evaluating consumer information, such as life style choices, blood samples and ultimately DNA samples, individually tailored dietary advice can be developed. These can help consumers to optimise health as well as prevent and treat different diseases.
The concept of personalised nutrition holds a great potential for market success. It was chosen as one of the key trends for food, nutrition and health 2017 by New Nutrition Business (New Nutrition Business, 2016). Further, the consumer interest for the concept is high; 45% was positive to genetic testing for personalised nutrition purposes in a German study (Gibney & Walsh, 2013) and the number further increased if the consumers were aware of their health concern.
However, despite the promising potential, personalised nutrition has not yet fully lived up to its expectations. In the master thesis Commercialising Personalised Nutrition: Barriers and Critical Success Factors (Kleinau Andersson, 2017), the challenges of commercialising personalised nutrition have been studied. This by examining the scientific research in the field, the variety of personalised nutrition companies existing online and consumer perceptions of the concept. The methodologies used was literature study, market analysis and workshops. The thesis resulted in the identification of 5 main barriers and 5 critical success factors for commercial success within personalised nutrition.
One reason for the slow progress in personalised nutrition is the high-level complexity of the concept. Dietary advice on a population level requires in itself the combination of numerous aspects which makes them complicated to establish. Moreover, it gets even more complicated with the need of individually adjusting these. That, in combination with the advanced sciences that personalised nutrition is based on, lead to a huge complexity. Furthermore, when science is complex and thus difficult to understand, it can easily lead to a difference between commercial and scientific interpretation. That can in turn result in misinterpretations and misunderstandings leading to a decrease in consumer trust. One such misunderstanding is the meaning of the term “personalisation”. It can be confusing for the consumer when a service that is claimed to be personalised is developed in altering ways and levels among different actors. An additional commercial barrier of personalised nutrition is the high price point. This is due to the involvement of the latest technology, the need of well-educated personnel as well as the small scale of individualised batches. Lastly, there is a concern by consumers that personal health information will fall into the wrong hands, therefore the consumer integrity can also be a hinder of commercialisation.
The question is now how to cope with these barriers of commercialisation? It is important that consumers trust and can understand the benefits of an offered personalised nutrition service before they are tempted to use it. These aspects have been considered in the identified critical success factors developed in the master thesis Commercialising Personalised Nutrition: Barriers and Critical Success Factors (Kleinau Andersson, 2017). When using these factors as guidance, there is an improved likelihood for companies to face commercial success within personalised nutrition.
1. Personalise the personalisation
Many of us might not be interested in the ultimate personalised diet obtained through complex questionnaires, blood samples and DNA analysis, due to for example high cost or personal interest. Therefore, letting the consumers choose on what level they want the personalisation to occur at, could meet their individual preferences. Personalising at a low level (i. e. with questionnaire about lifestyle) could for example reduce the cost whereas personalising on a higher level (i.e. questionnaire plus blood/DNA sample) could give more advanced results which could be suitable for the well-aware and interested consumers.
2. Thorough personalisation process
Regardless the level of personalisation, there is a need of a proper and thorough personalisation process for the consumer to trust it and being tempted to use it. The more parameters that are included on each level, the more personalised and exclusive will the result be perceived as by the consumer. However, the parameters need to be developed based on reliable scientific sources, otherwise the consumer can be suspicious about the offered personalised nutrition service.
3. Link to scientific research
For a consumer to understand the benefit and trust a personalised nutrition service, there must be a proper linkage to science. The parameters included in the personalisation process should be based on reliable sources, such as scientific research, which should be easily accessible for the interested consumer to find. To help the consumer understand the scientific background, the company should explain and communicate them a clear and simple way.
4. Fun and entertaining process
To not bore the consumer with the heavy load of scientific research involved in personalised nutrition, it is preferable to design a fun and entertaining process! The usage of for example a playful and personal language together with striking visuals will make the consumer interested in the complex field of personalised nutrition without even reflecting over it.
5. Protect personal information
It is of a great concern that the consumers are promised that the data is securely stored and not shared with third parties, otherwise the consumer trust for personalised nutrition actors will decrease rapidly.
The revolution of personalised nutrition possesses multiple possibilities although the barriers of commercialisation are limiting advances in the field. However, if letting the identified critical success factors above guide you, there is a great chance of overcoming the identified barriers and face future commercial success within personalised nutrition.
Ida Kleinau Andersson
Research Student at Healthy Marketing Team 2017
Student at Faculty of Engineering at Lund University, Master of Science in Engineering, Biotechnology
New Nutrition Business. (2016). 10 Key Trends in Food, Nutrition & Health 2017. Volume 22. Number 3/4.
Gibney, M. J., & Walsh, M. C. (2013). The future direction of personalised nutrition: my diet, my phenotype, my genes. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society
Kleinau Andersson, I. (2017), Commercialising Personalised Nutrition: Barriers and Critical Success Factors, Lund University