The following is a guest post by Amy Shim, director of client services for Invention Evaluator, a division of Tekcapital.
Nutrition and wellness technologies in 2018 are about more than smartwatches with step trackers. It’s about meal plans customized to biochemistry, group fitness classes with members around the world and even replacements for common ingredients. While many in the tech industry have been distracted by virtual reality and self-driving cars, the world of advanced nutrition has staged a quiet coup of the status quo.
As more consumers crave better options for health and nutrition woes, more entrepreneurs and investors are turning their heads toward this emerging market. Consumers will benefit from this concentration of innovation. Would-be disrupters in nutrition tech, on the other hand, now have to contend with an army of competitors vying for attention.
For those entrepreneurs, the question becomes: how can one company be sure that its product will succeed when so many around it fails? To find the answer, leaders of nutrition tech companies need to know their market and how to innovate their platform or go-to-market plan.
New advancements in nutrition tech
Fitbit popularized the merge of nutrition and technology when it launched its first fitness tracker. Since then, companies have flocked to the nutrition tech niche in droves — and the industry is primed for serious expansion over the next few years.
CB Insights recently studied more than 150 startups in nutrition tech. These startups specialize in everything from corporate wellness programs to healthy snacks to scientifically superior sleep. Peloton, for instance, blended the practicality of an exercise bike and the excitement of a spin class to create at-home group fitness routines. Users can join classes with instructors and fellow participants from around the world. It’s like an introvert-friendly social network for fitness.
Other companies take the intersection of science and nutrition even further. Salarius’ MicroSalt might not be a household name yet, but if the company successfully markets its sprinkle salt with at least 50% less sodium than regular salt, but tastes 100% salty, people may someday be as familiar with MicroSalt as they are with Morton’s table salt. Better-for-you replacement foods have great market potential in today’s health-conscious society. As more people turn down soda for water, that market will only continue to grow.
What’s next for the future of startups and nutrition — lab-grown meat now available at McDonald’s? With so many innovators in this burgeoning market, anything is possible.
Is your nutrition tech innovation ready to serve?
Nutrition tech will continue to boom in 2019. Plenty of startups have already begun to stake their claim in the market, and as the niche continues to grow, more will join them.
If you have an innovation in nutrition or wellness, follow these three tips to determine whether your product is ready for the spotlight:
1. Compare value propositions
You have a great invention, a fantastic team and a solid go-to-market plan. If your startup is the first to market a different lab-grown meat or MicroSalt, there’s not much direct competition. So how can you determine your value proposition?
When there is no direct competitor, you may have to look at the value propositions of adjacent competitors to see where they shine and where they leave room for you to take over. For lab-grown meat, that can be soy protein or veggie meat. For MicroSalt, that may be Morton’s but also specialty salt like Himalayan pink salt. MicroSalt may even look to sugar substitutes such as Splenda, Stevia and Equal. If you plan to battle for consumer preferences and market share, you need to know the problem it will solve, how your product will deliver and why customers will choose you.
2. Invite outside analysis
As the inventor or team member bringing an innovation to market, you should be disqualified from deciding whether it has a place there. Anyone invested in the success of your product should be ruled out, too. Try hiring a consumer research panel, sensory testing expert or an independent market analyst so that they can unbiased.
Outside experts can help gather a variety of insights that validate your challenge your assumptions. They can also identify a potential market and competitors you may have missed. Beyond market and product reviews, outside analysts can also help identify legal protection options like patents and Freedom to Operate analyses.
3. Think several moves ahead
A few years ago, Fitbit stampeded into the market with a smart fitness tracker and a simple app. Dozens of other companies tried to compete with similar, less recognizable products. Fitbit was the dominant health wearable until Apple Watch came along. Now with sliding market share, Fitbit is struggling with the disappointing launch of their Iconic watch. Once playing offense, now Fitbit is in defense mode.
Fitbit must innovate with radically different features that consumers don’t know they need yet. Where is the future of wearables and health tech going? They must continue to innovate and differentiate because their once dominant technology is no longer novel. Consider the future to make the most of your present.
As for the future of the entire nutrition tech industry, all signs point toward a booming niche for years to come. Entrepreneurs who successfully guide their companies through the gauntlet today could establish their brands as go-to providers of the future. Continuous innovation and differentiation will help weather the increasingly competitive path of nutrition and wellness tech.