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Future of Food: personalised, responsible and healthy

How to prepare for the future of personalised nutrition

Connecting you to opportunities to both future proof your organisation, and make your contribution to a more sustainable and healthy food system.

Our current nutrition paradigm is based on generalities: eat more fruits and vegetables; eat less processed foods, sugars and red meat. We believe that our food in the future will be much more personalised. Companies will offer more tailored products to connect to their purpose and meet the increasing consumer demand for healthy and responsible products.
Imagine that it is 2050...

At a clinic, a physician is discussing nutrition guidelines with a patient. Based on the patient’s medical history, physical activity, sleep, his diet over the past six months and his personal goals, the physician and patient plan necessary meal adjustments. On his way out, the patient stops at the clinic’s cafeteria for lunch, where he can choose from a wide array of healthy, plant-based menu items. An app on his phone combines his personal guidelines with data on food he consumed earlier in the day as well as his physical activity, to decide what to eat.

Does this sound revolutionary to you? We believe that the future of food will be personalised. This means that food will be optimised for the individual’s needs based on their biological makeup, lifestyle, health conditions, environmental factors, and personal preferences. Personalised food is an answer to global health issues such as malnutrition and obesity, and offers tremendous opportunities for businesses.

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Food will be optimised for the individual’s needs based on their biological makeup, lifestyle, health conditions, environmental factors, and personal preferences. 

Requirements: research, technology and willingness among consumers

There are three requirements to make the future of personalised food a reality. First, we need a deep understanding of the different factors that influence a person’s dietary needs. A growing body of scientific work provides us with insights on the relationship between food and health. Research such as the PREDICT study (a collaboration between, among others, Harvard University, Oxford University and Stanford University) has increased our understanding of how the gut microbiome, blood sugar and even sleep impact how people respond to food.

Next, we need technology to collect data, combine it with personal diet requirements, and turn this into advice for a personalised diet. The increased availability of technology such as fitness trackers and the emergence of low-barrier blood, DNA and gut microbiome testing solutions are important to assemble the necessary personal data, while digital technology helps to create user-friendly apps to support food decisions.

93% of consumers want to eat healthy at least some of the time

Finally, consumers need to be ready for the future of food. This seems to be the case: consumers are becoming more health-conscious and considerate of the impact food has on their health, with 93 percent of consumers wanting to eat healthily at least some of the time and 63 percent most or all of the time. Interestingly, a Europe-wide survey from Deloitte and Ahold Delhaize has revealed a high willingness among consumers to share personal data with grocery retailers. This implies an opportunity for the food industry to develop data-enabled services and business models.

Exciting business opportunities

Businesses have an essential role to play in making the change happen. Companies can put purpose front and centre while capitalising on the opportunity of personalised nutrition by offering products that will move consumers towards healthier and more sustainable diets.

We see that the industry is recognising this opportunity and supporting the transformation in many ways. Some companies promote a healthier diet and introduce internal policies to discontinue the procurement of meat. Other companies are updating their product portfolios, to ensure their products contain less unhealthy ingredients while encouraging customers to try healthier options through lower prices, promotions and in-store information. Moreover, large food companies are acquiring technology companies that offer real-time insights into nutritional needs by connecting compatible fitness devices and the logging of meals.

The possible opportunities for companies are plentiful, as shown in the figure below.

Personalised healthy nutrition: opportunity areas

Click one of the opportunity areas to discover the full opportunities.

  1. Prebiotics – compounds in food that induce the growth or activity of  beneficial microorganisms
  2. Probiotics – live microorganisms that provide   health benefits when consumed by improving gut flora
  3. Medical nutrition to support recovery from illnesses and address malnutrition caused by the disease
  4. Nutraceutical ingredients such as vitamins and minerals are added in the  functional food and beverages to enhance their nutritional value and have a  positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition
  1. Moment-based nutrition to fulfil moments of nutrition needs 
  2. Personalised nutrition advice based on food tracker, smart exercise measures, blood testing 
  3. Personalised diet for prevention and post-care of health conditions
  4. Emergence of new nutrition-based energy snacks and meal alternative
  5. Personalised recipes
  1. E-commerce, food marketplaces, food subscription services 
  2. Ready-to-eat/drink meals, lifestyle 
  3. Fresh meal food delivery 
  4. Mass customisation via 3D food printing 
  5. Recipe and process customisation
  6. Meals with farm-fresh ingredients – direct from Farm to Fork

Immunity boosters such as vitamins, minerals, probiotics, prebiotics and other plant-based dietary supplements

  1. ‘Free from’ labelling on foods (e.g. gluten-free, lactose-free, etc.)
  2. Shakes, powders, bars and other convenient products are increasingly replacing meals
  3. Reduction of non-healthy ingredients such as salt, sugar, fats, etc.

Where to start?

What are the next steps for companies that want to start to prepare for the future of personalised food? First, companies can adjust their product or service portfolios to better reflect customer needs. Think of food supplements, products adapted to specific segments (e.g. children, the elderly, athletes), and products that relate to a certain diet or lifestyle (e.g. lactose-free, low-carb, vegetarian).

For most companies, the move towards personalised nutrition means investing in their digital and data capabilities. Personalised nutrition requires information to be available throughout the value chain. As consumers trust companies with intimate information about their health and lifestyle, special attention is needed for privacy and data security.

Finally, reaching the full potential of personalised nutrition requires partnerships, as input from multiple players is needed. Companies interested in personalised nutrition should proactively look for collaboration with other players, such as universities, research institutes, technology partners or start-ups. The Personalised Nutrition & Health consortium, an initiative of Wageningen University & Research and TNO, is an interesting example in this respect.

Although there are still plenty of steps needed to realise this transformation, one thing is for sure – the Future of Food is personalised, responsible, and healthy.

More about consumer privacy and data security

Together with Ahold Delhaize we did a study into European attitudes on the use of consumer data by grocers

Check the report

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