Thursday, October 28, 2021

Good-bye Plant Based, Hello Personalized Nutrition


The concept of personalized nutrition started to gain mainstream momentum before the pandemic, and then, well, things changed. It’s not a new concept. Scientists have been actively talking about it since the turn-of-the-century, some progressive players even before that. 

Personalized nutrition is about adapting food to individual needs. We know consumers react differently to diet—just think of the body’s response to something as simple as lactose—but there’s more to it than the overt signs. Genetic makeup, lifestyle and environment have an impact on long-term health and wellness. 

“While there are food products available that address requirements or preferences of specific consumer groups, these products are based on empirical consumer science rather than on nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics. The latter two build the science foundation for understanding human variability in preferences, requirements and responses to diet, and may become the future tools for consumer assessment motivated by personalized nutritional counseling for health maintenance and disease prevention,”  according to a 2008 article in Medscape. You can read it HERE

“Personalized nutrition is an approach that provides targeted nutritional advice to an individual based on information specific to that person,” said Jos Ordovs, PhD, director of the Nutrition and Genomics Laboratory and a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, in the March 8, 2019, Tuft’s University Health & Nutrition Letter. “Advances in science will increase the odds that a particular dietary pattern is successful for a particular individual.” You can read more HERE.

Food Technology provides an excellent review of the pros and cons of personalized nutrition. You can read it HERE

All of these articles were published pre-pandemic. The concept was put on hold by many as plant-based and sustainability started dominating the food and nutrition conversation. That is expected to change, sooner than later. And it’s time to get on board. 

In fact, this week at SupplySide West in Las Vegas, some degree of personalized nutrition was highlighted by most ingredient suppliers. Have it be a nutrition bar designed for kids, a soup for the elderly or an ice cream bar for expecting women, innovation in this space is on the path to accelerate fast.    

“Personalized nutrition is expected to be the next disrupter after plant-based meat,” said Michael Gusko, global director of innovation, GoodMills Group, at the NEWTRITION X. Innovation Summit 2021 held in conjunction with Anuga in Cologne, Germany, on October 12, 2021. “It’s all about consumers taking control of their health.”

Mariëtte Abrahams, moderator of the event, and personalized nutrition business consultant and founder of Qina, said, “Personalized nutrition has experienced unprecedented growth over the last year.” 

Nestle Research estimates the market will be worth $1.3 billion in 2025 and $64 billion by 2040. This growth is being fueled by researchers such as Gusko and Abrahams who are enthusiastic about focusing on disease prevention and helping individuals to improve their health through data and knowledge.

Photo source: BENEO

“The current nutrition paradigm is based on one-size-fits-all nutrition recommendations: eat more wholegrain, fruits and vegetables; eat less processed foods, fat, salt, sugars and red meat,” said Gusko. “But based on new science, we move much closer to finding the true answer. Our food in the future will be much more personalized. Personalized food is an answer to global health issues such as obesity, diabetes and even cancer, and offers tremendous opportunities for businesses.”

He explained that there are four requirements to make the future of personalized food a reality. First, we need a deep understanding of the different factors that influence a person’s dietary needs. 

“A growing body of scientific work is finally starting to open the black box between diet and health,” said Gusko. “Research reveals large variations in blood sugar responses between people when participants ate the same test meals. The results explain why some people struggle to lose weight, even on calorie-controlled diets, and highlight the importance of understanding personal metabolism when it comes to diet and health.”

Understanding is one thing, but putting that knowledge to work is another. That’s where technology comes in. And as of right now, we are not as sophisticated as we need to be but we are on the right path. 

“We need technology to collect data, combine it with personal diet requirements and turn this into advice for a personalized diet,” said Gusko. “The increased availability of technology such as fitness trackers, continuous glucose monitoring sensors and the emergence of low-barrier blood, DNA and gut microbiome testing solutions, enable the assembly of the necessary personal data, while digital technology helps to create user-friendly apps to support food decisions.”

Third is functional foods. We are there, but many of us are using intuition to choose what foods are best for our body. The technology needs to catch up.  

“We need differentiated food offerings that take advantage of the new nutritional insights into the individual metabolism to create foods that influence metabolism much more than mainstream foods can,” said Gusko. “If we want to fully exploit the true potential of our food in a targeted manner, we must use the incredibly versatile biodiversity of nature, which can provide us with truly functional ingredients that push nutritional boundaries and have an eye-opening effect on personal health.”

The fourth and final requirement is the most important. It’s consumer acceptance. 

Photo source: BENEO
“Consumers need to be ready for the future of food,” said Gusko. “There is mounting evidence of consumer interest in products that are ‘tailored for me.’” 

A major global study undertaken by Leatherhead Food Research indicated that globally, more than three in 10 (32%) consumers said they wanted products to match their personal dietary and nutritional needs. This was as high as 44% in the Brazil sample and 46% in the China sample. UK consumers were the least positive at 17%. 

“This variability in demand demonstrates the need for companies to take a country-specific approach to address consumer needs,” said Gusko. “Choice fatigue is the flipside of the personalization trend. Brands need to consider that consumers may be both overwhelmed by the sheer number of possibilities as well as underwhelmed by the end results of their experimentations. For this reason, limiting choices within safe parameters, which still give consumers the feeling of control over their food and beverage choices while, at the same time, minimizing disappointment, is a commendable strategy.”

There’s a great deal of opportunity for dairy foods to be formulated for personalized nutrition. Carbohydrate, fat and protein selection are part of the equation. Vitamins and minerals, too. Taking it to the next level, natural ingredients with known benefits, such as botanicals, have a place in personalized nutrition. Many botanicals are described as adaptogens, as well as nootropics. The latter is a term with the Greek translation of “towards the mind” and refers to compounds that directly or indirectly influence cognitive brain function. Examples include ashwagandha, citicoline and green tea extract. 

Adaptogens, on the other hand, are a class of non-toxic herbs, mushrooms and minerals known to boost the immune system and help the body fight off the effects of stress. These plant-based compounds have been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions. Ginseng, for example, is said to regulate the body’s response to physical or mental stress. 

Proper dosing is necessary for the consumer to reap any purported benefits. This makes single-serve dairy foods, such as a container of yogurt, an ice cream novelty or a milk-based beverage attractive delivery vehicles. One serving can promise a specified amount of the compound. 

“Demand for personalization is poised to be a major disruptor of the food and beverage sector,” concluded Gusko. “But it isn’t going to happen overnight. It will be an ongoing journey of innovation, education and assimilation. Companies that start now will be best placed to meet the heightened personalization demands of the future. What seems implausible today, will be tomorrow’s reality.”

Let’s make sure dairy is a leader in this space! 

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