The category expert Mariette Abrahams explained this during her presentation at NutraIngredients' Sports & Active Nutrition Summit in Amsterdam (Oct 5-7).
The founder and CEO of the personalised nutrition (PN) innovation platform Qina pointed out the market is estimated to be worth $8bn globally, growing at 8-12% per year. And the PN supplement segment is a rapidly growing area, growing by 35.8% in 2021 alone.
She noted that the space got a mighty boost from the pandemic which increased general awareness of physical and mental health but also opened consumers up to the practice of self-testing and increased adoption of digital tools which allow for data collection.
Advances in terms of the testing kits on the market today have also made this sector far more appealing. Continuous glucose monitors have started to go mainstream and they are advancing even further to be able to measure many metabolites.
Abrahams noted a recent innovation, the 'sweat patch', which is able to measure vitamins, minerals and branch chain amino acids in sweat, making it easier to track health markers.
She also discussed Thorne's 'microbiome wipes' which make faecal sample collection much easier.
But Abrahams argued there is a much more effective route in this market than simply launching new products.
"We have enough solutions, we don’t need more shiny tools, we need to see collaboration and companies working together to better serve consumers," she said.
Done right, Abrahams said companies can identify hidden dietary patterns and food behaviours, understand attitudes and build networks, in ways which create holistic health benefits to consumers.
"Increasingly consumers are more interested in service. If you only have a product and are providing a selection based on a survey – that is personalisation but not personalised nutrition. Consumers want the additional apps and services so whatever diet they are following, they want to know what else the company can do to educate them to improve their health further. It can be help with contact to experts, or help via more information, or help with adherence."
And the collaboration doesn't have to start and end with the finished service.
Tech in science
Research conducted by Qina found that consumers often consume collagen to boost digestive health, despite there being no research to back this use. This led the company down a path of collaboration and discovery.
“We decided to interview some dietitians in the US and asked if they used collagen for digestion problems and bloating. They told us ‘yes’ we use this dosage, for 6-8 weeks and we find it reduces bloating.
“To test this theory, we conducted a study working with Rousselot and their Peptan collagen peptide product. For the study we used the medical grade Cara Care app to allow participants to track their diet, their lifestyle, diet and physical activity before and after taking the supplements.
"They took the supplement for eight weeks and at the end of the trial 95% of them reported lower bloating and more regular digestive systems, giving an interesting springboard for further studies."
Abrahams said this case study reveals not only how consumer data can lead to new discoveries but also how personalised nutrition technologies can be integrated into studies in a way which simplifies participation, improves response rate and improves the validity of the findings.