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Customer relationships are crucial to developing personalised nutrition offerings

By Lynda Searby , 17-Mar-2014

Personalised nutrition providers must change the way they view and approach customer relationships, say researchers.
Personalised nutrition providers must change the way they view and approach customer relationships, say researchers.

If Personalised Nutritional Offerings (PNOs) are to gain a commercial foothold in the marketplace, lessons need to be learned and providers will have to change the way they approach customer relationships, say researchers.

“The complexity of this kind of approach is enormous and key lessons need to be learned, which obviously did not happen right from the start as can be seen from the fact even major initial players such as DSM and Sciona have abandoned the field,” Bio-Sense’s Dr Jo Goossens, a partner in the EU Food4Me project, told Nutraingredients.

Coaching individuals with regard to nutritional and lifestyle choices is an “essential element” of making PNOs successful, he said. 

“Therefore any PNO business will need to have a completely different relationship with its clients.”

Lessons learned

His comments were made in the context of a study carried out by researchers in the Food4Me project which analysed currently available PNOs. The researchers, from the Wageningen University and Research Centre and Belgian new business development company Bio-Sense, analysed the PNOs currently available to consumers, with the results were published in the journal Genes and Nutrition.

Fuelled by a growing body of research into nutrigenomics – the science that underpins the relationship between diet and genetic expression – in recent years there has been an increase in PNOs, said the team.

A key objective of the Food4Me project is to determine how to deliver these services to consumers more effectively, in order to encourage healthier dietary habits.

The study identified nine personalised nutrition model ‘archetypes’ that are already currently available and several entirely novel concepts that may come into existence in the next ten years.

“Examples include the ‘Weightwatchers’ model, which is a ‘social-pressure’ oriented approach or the ‘corporate health/lifestyle coaching’ model, offered by employers to employees to help contribute to a better work-life balance,” said Goossens.

Only a small number of currently available PNOs incorporate genetic analysis, obtained from a DNA sample in which specific SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) relating diet to diseases or health conditions are identified.

The research confirmed that consumers are still more reluctant to provide genetic data – either for privacy or cost reasons – than information on dietary behaviour or physiological health.

“The extent to which PNOs will have a genetic information component will depend on what end-users are willing to accept or pay. It is clear that for a number of diet related health issues, such as blood pressure, the link with specific genotypes has been well substantiated and will therefore help individuals to evaluate their risk in this respect. Only time will tell if this will be picked up at large or not.”

Dr Goossens believes that phenotypic data – measurable body parameters such as weight, BMI, insulin, cholesterol, hormones, triglycerides – will be “vastly more important” for personalised nutrition as they are the only way to gauge progress against set goals.

Looking to the future, he predicts the emergence of novel ways of bringing PNOs to the end-user, through both commercial and public-private initiatives, saying: “A lot will depend on how societies are able to cope with the health and nutrition issue, as this will define who and when these PNO initiatives materialise.”

Source: Genes and Nutrition
Volume 8, Issue 2, Pages 153-163, doi: 10.1007/s12263-012-0308-4
"Nutrigenomics-based personalised nutritional advice: in search of a business model?"
Authors: Amber Ronteltap,Hans van Trijp, et al

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