Piet Hein Van Dam, founder of the ultra-personalised nutrition startup Clear Health Programme, says the pandemic is having a number of paradoxical effects on nutrition right now but the demand for preventative health solutions has been made crystal clear.
“Before, personalised nutrition and preventative health for most people was a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘need to have’.
“Now there’s this realisation that there’s a strong relation between mortality and general health and obesity, making it much more relevant.
“The global population suddenly understands that some things can take over our health systems and block economies so this has brought attention to the importance of prevention, over treatment.”
Amsterdam-based business Clear runs a three week programme in which users wear a discreet glucose monitoring patch continuously (on the back of the arm). In the first week they log their food, mood, exercise and sleep in order for the programme to discover their baseline, week two sees the wearer diversify their diet and exercise and week three is when the numbers are crunched and the service recommends what foods produce the best glucose responses for the individual.
The service offers consumers with data analysis, a personalised diet, coaching, recipes, reminders, suggestions, and a community of other service users with whom they can interact in order to discover just how individual their own diet and exercise responses are.
The startup founder and doctor of physical chemistry says the biggest change for his company has been the increased interest from businesses involved in health and wellness, from gyms to hospitals.
“Lifestyle businesses often don’t have online propositions in place as it stands and now they need to be able to provide services from a distance so we’ve had a lot of proposals from wellness centres, gyms, personal trainers and even medical institutions.”
Clear has even partnered with one hospital, the name of which cannot yet be disclosed, to help provide thousands of its patients with personalised nutrition advice to help them keep their weight down pre- and post-operation.
“This is ideal for them because it means they can personalise their care and they can continue their care outside the hospital walls.”
These potential partnerships were already an aspiration for Clear before the pandemic but the crisis has set the motors running, says the doctor.
A time for entrepreneurs
Van Dam says that a time of crisis is the time for entrepreneurs to step up to the plate.
“As startups in the health and wellness space, our role is to address the big problems in the world. We are responsible for making sure economies start to grow again. Necessity is the motor of innovation and a change in global health and wellness is necessary right now so we have to step in.”
In the short term, the entrepreneur says the pandemic has created an audience of two extreme halves – those who have no time at all and those who have all the time in the world.
“A lot of people are interested but they don’t have the mental space or time or the spare money to devote to their diet right now, like those who are trying to look after young children.
“Those people are looking forward to working on their diet again when they can go back to ‘normal’.
“On the other hand, we have families with grown up children who have time on their hands and are looking to improve their health and they're interested in personalised services which give them something to focus on.”
Speaking about the best ways to communicate with consumers at this time, Van Dam says Clear has been hosting virtual meetings for its users, providing them with an opportunity to engage and interact with the service and other users – something very much appreciated at a time of extreme isolation.
He says this is an ideal time to educate current and potential customers.
“We are also getting involved in several webinars, many hosted by other people, just to help explain how our service works and the importance of personalised nutrition for improving overall health."