Experts versus influencers: Network on a mission to empower the new generation of health experts

By Nikki Cutler

- Last updated on GMT

Lia Marlen Schmökel and Simone Frey
Lia Marlen Schmökel and Simone Frey
Two nutrition scientists who became angry about the number of social media celebs with more influence than health experts have created a network to empower their colleagues to have a real impact on the future of nutrition.

Simone Frey and Lia Schmökel, co-founders of Nutrition Hub, are bringing together health and nutrition experts as well as startup founders and industry players to encourage collaboration on evidence based nutrition innovations and create a trustworthy, knowledge-driven future of nutrition.

They launched the Berlin-based network (open to all experts throughout Europe) last year to the relief of many in the industry.

Frey explains:  “I was really angry that everybody has an opinion on nutrition yet as a nutrition expert I always felt in a defensive mode. I wanted to say ‘if you believe that then your diet could end up harming your health’.

"I always wondered why there’s no better information and no expert collaboration, so I wanted to create a place to nurture strong and powerful nutrition experts that people look up to and trust.

“We want nutrition experts in leading positions working hand-in-hand with industry, investors, politicians and startups leading to a better nourished society and higher economic growth of the industry.”

The duo have a wealth of experience in nutrition and innovation. Frey has worked as MD for startup lab tech company BioAnalyt while Marlen founded the herbal health startup Nouri.

Making an impact


But they believe nutritionists need to be more visible and impactful in today’s fickle world of diet advice.

“We want them to be visible on social media, to be influencers, because we see that everything about nutrition that we see online is not fact-based or evidence-driven. If we stay in a world where nutrition advice isn’t evidence based, we risk the health of consumers.

"Some startups are creating the future of nutrition. ​We need to connect nutritionists with startup founders early on so the new innovations coming to market can actually work.

“The more these innovations don’t work, the more people will questions the effects of nutrition and that will negatively impact the entire industry."

Frey says that food producers frequently tell her that fact-based advice needs better publicity as their sales are impacted by false information spread by social media celebs.

Spreading our word

She believes one major issue impacting the publicity of health experts is the lack of collaboration.

“In our community, only 10% are members of established organisations such as the Dietitians Association or the German Nutrition Society. 

“Whereas the professional associations’ members tend to remain amongst themselves, the new generation of experts are open to collaboration.

"So we are seeing a new generation of professionals in this industry now who are choosing to follow us because we are ​encouraging them to use social media and connect with the big and the new players in the industry."

She adds that having this strong network of peers who are like minded helps them to share and translate what they've learnt to reach the masses.

“The founders of startup companies tend to be very extrovert, well connected and very visible so it’s great for nutrition experts to connect with these people who can share their knowledge.”  

Three pillars of success

The business works through three pillars: Networking, innovation and education.

The networking events bring together nutrition experts and industry players, the innovation collaboration puts startup founders in touch with nutritionists to bring more science and evidence-based advice into nutrition innovation, and education involves the creation of engaging imagery for posters and Instagram posts to help spread evidence-based nutrition advice.

Frey explains that, in the world of Instagram, messages are portrayed through images and therefore the imagery available to convey evidence-based nutrition advice needs to be upgraded to be truly engaging and interesting.

“If you search #nutrition on Instagram you find pictures of bowls and smoothies. OK, those can be healthy but we want to make imagery to explain the evidence and science behind the nutrition advice. We’re currently working on a nutrition pyramid image which should be ready very soon.

“Also, if you search #nutritionexpert you will find images of people holding apples and measuring tapes - It’s bizarre!”

The network will host its first Nutrition Hackthon​ in Berlin on July 3rd​-5th​. The event invites food and nutrition experts, developers, business gurus and nutrition enthusiasts to work together to come up with an innovative solution in the field of personalised nutrition. In 48 hours, participants will create a first prototype and receive validated feedback from a high-level cast of mentors and industry representatives. 

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