From the lab to real-world application: Scientific insights are vital to innovation

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

From the lab to real-world application: Scientific insights are vital to innovation

Related tags Food Nutrition

Consumer-centric innovation must be coupled with real-world scientific insights that explain how to best deliver nutrition to those that need it, says Lucozade’s senior sports scientist.

While food and drink manufactures will always need to be consumer-centric in their innovation, they must also use the best scientific insights available to understand the physiological and nutritional needs of the consumer - and how to best deliver on those needs, warns Adrian Hodgson, senior sports scientist at Lucozade Ribena Suntory.

Speaking at the recent Global Food Technology & Innovation Summit in London, Hodgson noted that innovation comes from ‘great ideas’, and that great innovation requires not just great ideas but also great people.

​Consumer insights provide some great ideas, but in my opinion scientists also create great ideas,”​ he told delegates. “For me, it is about understanding the need states of different consumers and groups of people.”

“It comes down to basic physiology,”​ he said. “We all have different nutritional needs, and they come in all kinds of shapes and sizes … It’s looking at those different areas across the body that nutrition – in the form of a food or a drink – can alter.”

Whether it is a consumer that wants a product that will help their mental focus or aid motivation, or somebody looking for a product and benefit that is along the lines of weight reduction, Hodgson warned that it is important that manufacturers understand the basic physiology of these processes before innovating new products in that area.

“Whether that is an athlete, whether it is somebody who is exercising, or whether it is somebody who just wants refreshment, we have to be consumer-centric … But, if we don’t understand the science that then informs how someone may use that product or foods, we will never understand what he solution should be.”

“This is fundamental to how we design our research and put together our product development,” ​he explained.

From lab-based to field-based

Hodgson cited innovation around carbohydrate in the sports drinks sector as an area where it is vital that the physiological needs of a consumer are understood during NPD activity –


 adding that it is important to understand physiological functions and adaptations to nutrition.

“But for me it’s all about understanding from the bench side to the race side, or from the lab to the field,”​ he said – noting that much of the scientific work that underpins nutrition is done under controlled conditions in a lab-based setting.

“How can we begin to better inform what is actually happening in the real world,” ​he asked, noting that it may be that the lab-based findings on sport and nutrition science do not fit with what is actually happening when a person performs in a competition or uses the product in a real-world setting.

“If we can bridge that gap in scientific insight then we can a better handle on what we can do from an innovation perspective.”

Indeed, Hodgson noted that there are lots of new technologies that can begin to bring tests that were traditionally only available in a lab-based setting to the real world, meaning that they can bring a better scientific insight in to different consumer need states.

‘Gold standard’ vs. accessible tools

The Lucozade scientists noted that while ‘gold standard’ research techniques can provide a great deal of information to scientists in the lab-based setting, companies looking to get true insights from the real world of consumers must balance the best scientific insights with those that are actually accessible.


“For the moment at least, most of the research in sports nutrition takes place in the lab. They are very good techniques, gold standard techniques. But they not accessible and we cannot take them out in to the field.”

On the flip side of this, there are also a wide range of insights and tests that can be performed in a field setting because they are more accessible, however these are not that informative ‘and are certainly not gold standard,’ Hodgson said.

“It’s about finding that balance … the interesting thing for me is how this fits in to future technologies.”

“We are seeing smartphone apps and bands that monitor your physical activity and others that will help you to cook. I’m yet to see really robust data from any of these technologies, but if you think about it, you could start to link them up and get a real insight in to what it is that consumers are actually doing, and let that drive future innovation.”

Indeed, he suggested that true innovation for sports science, nutrition, and even the wider food industry, must have that scientific insight at the forefront but must also be in collaboration consumer insights.

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