On December 5th, team members from DNAfit were at the Personalised Nutrition Innovation Summit, held in Kensington, London.
Several years into its existence, the Summit draws an interesting crowd, ranging from major food brands, such as Kellogg’s and Danone, to scientists and genetic specialists such as ourselves. Words like genetics, epigenetics, microbiome, and AI were blended together seamlessly, distributed among panels, presentations and Dragon’s Den style interrogations.
Here are five trends that got my attention.
Consumers are gaining control of their own health data
Speaking for myself, I’ve only ever had blood taken during a donor session or whilst being at the Doctor. Oftentimes the reason will have been to check blood cholesterol or vitamin deficiencies.
Now you can check these things from the comfort of your own home, albeit with the intrusion of a small prick (see DNAfit’s SnapShot). Blood gained in this context represents ‘your own data’, based on which you can make decisions about fat intake, liver function, vitamin levels.
When you pair this information with your DNA (more data), this information becomes even more useful, adding an extra level of personalisation.
We’re still a long way from the opening scene of ‘The Island’ (filmed in 2005!), where a clone of Ewan McGregor ‘relieves himself’ into the wall to check his sodium levels, but change is afoot. The data is in our hands. (Or fingers. Or cheek swabs.)
Personalised supplementation is gaining traction
Following on from above, we’ll see customers become more selective about supplementation, what’s good, what’s bad and what’s hyperbole. For example, I was gunning Vitamin C all day, every day, until DNAfit’s very own Amy Wells mentioned that repeated over supplementation can do exactly the opposite of what you desire.
So what is good?
At the Summit, Philipp Merk, Founder of German Company Loewi, pitched an exceedingly slick blood and supplementation platform designed for peak performing individuals. A cool UI leads to recipe advice and supplements keyed into your precise needs.
Make no mistake, this industry is going to be BIG — the supplement industry was valued at $132 billion in 2016, and projections expect to see this figure double by 2021.
AI will greatly personalise how we shop for food
Coming from a web personalisation and ecommerce background, I was particularly taken with Whisk, and their CEO, Nick Holzherr.
Dubbed as the “Internet of Food”, Whisk allows you to shop recipes by connecting you to a retailer with the ingredients preselected. It learns as you go, tailoring recipe recommendations based on everything from diets and allergies, favourite cuisines, preferred store brands, nutrition goals, and tastes.
Consumers benefit from ease and relevance, while retailers get to enjoy more traffic and the ability to target content, based on user preferences.
Close to our heart at DNAfit is the ability for Whisk to report on a recipe’s nutritional content: macro and micro-nutritional values, glycemic index and load, dietary constraints and a “health score”, helping, among others, people with diabetes.
Personalisation food drives revenue and reduces waste
You might have heard of Vita Mojo, a trendy food joint in London where orders are made from large ipads, allowing customers to remodel their dishes in a few swipes. As they do, a real-time pie chart shows the breakdown of macronutrients (fats, carbs, proteins). The more you order, the smarter the system gets.
Not only are these restaurants a steaming success, but also an incubator for their own SaaS food ordering technology. Vita Mojo observes that this SaaS customisation model actually reduces waste, both in the kitchen and in the bins.
In a recent innovation, DNAfit actually integrates with Vita Mojo. If a customer has done one of our tests, ingredients are badged with a healthy green helix or a cautionary red one, giving customers a clear idea of how the dish will contribute to their health. A super interesting observation is that customers who sync their DNA have an 8% larger order value.
Genetically matched diets are most successful
If you were at the Summit, you’d have seen some colourful research referenced by Andrew Steel detailing the lasting effects of nutrigenetic diet.
The research shows that, if you take a group of obese people and let them choose either a genetically matched diet, or a ketogenic diet, those on the genetically matched diet have better outcomes. The genetically matched diet group lost significantly more weight after two years, and also showed significantly greater improvements in total cholesterol, HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and fasting blood glucose.
This research suggests that those following a genetically matched diet may also stick to that diet for longer. Why is this important? Well, one of the main reasons why most diets fail is due to lack of adherence. This yo-yo dieting is associated with increased weight gain over time, which is obviously bad news. By improving dietary adherence, genetically matched diets appear to improve both fat loss and health.
One last thing
The current and future landscape of personalised nutrition is extremely exciting and the possibilities for development are truly endless, whether that’s supplements, meals or even at the consumer level, in the supermarket as people understand more about themselves.
But science aside, one note to end on is that food also has a cultural significance. As Christmas approaches, we should remember that food brings us joy, brings us together and creates nostalgia. So while we can get clinical about what people need on an individual level, let’s not swap every meal of a sachet of Huel and a handful of vitamins.
The DNAfit ethos ensures that everyone has the smarts to make balanced food decisions all year round.
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