When she was the vice president of global marketing at Teva Pharmaceuticals, Rachel Yarcony found herself so stressed out that she had problems relaxing and getting to sleep at night.
Even though she worked for a drug company, Yarcony didn't want to take any pharmaceuticals to help her relax. A doctor told her about adaptogens — herbs and fungi with natural properties that help the body with stress. Specific adaptogens helped Yarcony get the relaxation she needed, and she had an idea to bring that concept to the world.
Yarcony started myAir, a company that uses the powers of adaptogens and personalized nutrition to help consumers reduce their stress levels. Users create an account and fill out a questionnaire about their personal stress levels and preferences. With the results of that questionnaire, they can buy a personalized box of nutrition bars targeted to help lower their specific stress levels. Through a smart watch app, myAir can measure the consumer's vital signs and deliver instant feedback on how the bars are impacting their bodies.
Before Yarcony worked for Teva, she spent years at CPG companies Nestlé and Strauss. Twenty years ago, she said, food companies just wanted to sell more products. Then, she said, they got into functional products, adding ingredients like probiotics or natural stimulants to enhance foods.
"The third generation of food is functional food and personalized. Food that works for me," Yarcony said. "...This is what myAir is doing. We use the power of me and the power of data in order to help people manage stress in a better way. And it's so easy to do. You already eat something. Instead of eating a chocolate, eat something healthy, tasty, functionalized."
How does myAir work?
MyAir bars contain natural ingredients that are known for helping people relax. These include cocoa, oat, hazelnut, cranberry, lemon, lavender, sage, eucalyptus, black pepper and passionflower. Some bars are designed to be eaten during the day to reduce tension, with ingredients such as sage, or to help with focus with eucalyptus. Others are designed to help a consumer get to sleep, with ingredients including hops.
The bars are snack-sized and have 80 to 100 calories each. They are sweet and taste like their key ingredients, but don't have any added protein aftertastes.
After taking the initial stress quiz, consumers can buy a month's worth of myAir bars, which are delivered to their home. On myAir's website, a box costs $50, but it's $40 with a subscription. Those with smart watches can sync them with myAir, which has a strategic partnership with Garmin. Yarcony said the company takes eight to 10 data points per day from myAir users — including data on physical activity, diet and sleep — and works to build a profile of how well the bars are working. It also collects information about stress levels, including what time of day a person experiences the most stress or how sleep times impact their physiological state.
MyAir’s website says that most consumers start feeling the effects of the bars in the first five days of starting to consume them, though everyone is different.
Users — and their smart watch data — indicate that the bars work. Research on myAir’s website done by Technion - Israel Institute of Technology found that myAir bars improved 73% of users’ anxiety scores, and 84% saw better sleep quality. More than half slept longer, and 64% had more deep sleep.
While myAir is available to any consumer through its website, Yarcony said the company’s main business right now is with large corporations. MyAir puts together wellness packages for big businesses, which can provide their employees with the bars and a Garmin smart watch as an employee benefit to help them manage stress.
Yarcony said Intel is one of the company’s corporate clients, and it’s proven to be a very popular program. Employees are all interested in reducing their stress, but the company has also spurred an ongoing conversation about eating for health and well being.
While myAir collects quite a lot of data from its consumers, Yarcony said that few seem to have deep privacy concerns. From her time working at pharmaceutical companies, she said she learned people like to share personal data when it means they get some control or useful information. The information myAir collects, analyzes and gives back to users is like that, she said.
“All the data is only for myself because I get the impact, and I discover new things that I didn't know about myself,” Yarcony said. “When I learned about my most stressful hours and my sleep quality, I suddenly understand what happened to me.”
MyAir's main focus is helping consumers reduce stress, an issue faced by three-quarters of the U.S. population, Yarcony said. The company does not have any current plans to develop products that deal with other health issues.
However, Yarcony believes that in the near future, more food and drink companies will tap into the powers of food-as-medicine, personalization and data collection. Technology is enhancing the way that everyone does ordinary things, she said. Most people today no longer consult paper maps when trying to get somewhere because the data about traffic, road hazards and closures, and estimated travel time on a smartphone are much more useful. It will be the same with nutrition, Yarcony predicted.
“We will all prepare in the future to eat and to behave according to our personal cognitive signature and behavioral signature,” she said. “This is exactly what we do. …We collect physiological data in a way that we work for the consumer."