Personalized nutrition could reach the masses if hurdles can be overcome
- In order for personalized nutrition programs to develop and be available to the masses, significant changes need to be made in terms of consumer knowledge about their needs, food manufacturing and distribution, according to a recent article on Food Business News.
- One possible solution down the road, according to the article, could be 3D printing. Emerging technologies could one day allow consumers to download a personalized product formulation and print it in their home.
- Habit, a San Francisco-based company, offers a personalized nutrition program that is based on genetic testing. The new company has caught the attention of Campbell Soup, which has invested in the startup.
In a time when consumers are trying to eat more healthy, personalized nutrition sounds like a concept on the verge of becoming the next big food trend.
More consumers recognize individual bodies react differently to food because of various genetic factors and predispositions. It would seem the next step from eating clean and scouring ingredient lists would be to consume food tailor-made to fuel a person's body in the best possible way.
There are significant challenges that could prevent these programs from taking off. The first is that consumers simply don’t understand what personalized nutrition is. The second is that due to its high cost, it’s not likely to fit in many budgets, particularly in middle- and low-income communities.
Habit, a personalized nutrition meal delivery startup, takes information gathered from an at-home test kit and then makes specific meals that are sent to a customer’s home. The personalized test kit, results and advice from its nutrition coaches currently cost $249. Meals are priced at $8.99 for breakfast, and $13.50 for lunch and dinner.
If there was a way for Habit to bring its costs down, the meal company would have a greater chance of capturing the market. Some consumers may be interested in just getting the information gleaned from the at-home kit, but at a discounted price of $249, it can be difficult to justify the cost.
Absent a major technological change, like sped-up development and access to 3D food printing, personalized nutrition will likely remain a luxury. A newcomer could succeed by focusing on the research part of the equation, and leaving consumers to build their own meals. If test kits were available for $49 to $99, this market could take off. As more consumers become interested in personalization, a greater number of companies could enter the mix, pushing prices lower and attracting more people to use the service.
In addition, focusing advertising on social media and digital ads could help spread the word to millennials who would likely have a greater interest in personalized nutrition as they take a greater interest in what they eat and the ingredients used to make the food.Halo Top ice cream used its marketing dollars this way and it paid off by helping vault the dessert to become the #1 seller of pint ice cream in the U.S., beating out iconic brands such as Ben & Jerry's and Breyers.
3-D printing also has the potential to change the food industry. If printers became as affordable, sanitary and common as microwaves, they could drastically alter the way consumers prepare meals. 3-D printers also can be a useful tool for food manufacturers, when it comes to R&D.
PepsiCo has already started using 3-D food printing to create plastic prototypes of different shaped and colored potato chips to show consumer focus groups. Barilla sponsored a contest to create a 3-D printed pasta, selecting a design that blooms into a rose shape when boiled. Oreo has also used 3-D printers to create cookies with customizable creme patterns and flavors.
As food manufacturers look to stand out in a crowd, personalization is one way to do that. But while the future looks bright, personalization has a number of obstacles it must first overcome before it can reach the masses.