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How we think about and understand nutrition and our bodies is ever evolving as food literacy continues to grow. And if there is one aspect of wellness that consumers are gravitating towards, it is that there is no one diet or wellness approach that suits everyone — what’s good for one person may not be right for another. As such, consumers are seeking customized solutions that address their unique needs and challenges. But just how far will consumers go in their quest for personalized nutrition and how will it impact broader food culture?

The Hartman Group’s Health + Wellness 2019: From Moderation to Mindfulness report finds that personalized nutrition is the merging of two major cultural forces: Personalization & Customization and Health & Wellness via Nutrition.

Macro Forces for Personalized Nutrition: #1 Personalization & Customization

Individualized and hyper-relevant products, experiences and brand connections are becoming an expectation.

Experiential culture plus technological progress has created an elevated expectation for products, services, marketing and messages that are uniquely tailored to the individual. The desire for personalization in food experiences is showing up in how consumers evaluate and experiment with dietary approaches, shopping, food prep and consuming foods and beverages. The ability to curate experiences and products that demonstrate their individual relevance to consumers is key for greater loyalty.

We have realized not only the value of having rich information about things but the immense power of having data about people — highly personalized data about persons’ behaviors, attitudes, interests, relationships and bodies. Consumers will continue to expect products, services and messages that are individually tailored to personal needs and will willingly and unwittingly offer up personal data to facilitate this.

Macro Forces for Personalized Nutrition: #2 Health & Wellness via Nutrition

Food remains the dominant route to health and wellness, with the desire for nutrient density defining the aspiration for what “healthy food” means today. Consumers believe that the symbols of fresher, less processed add up to nutrient-dense: getting the most from the inherent goodness of food.

1. Inherent nutrition is better. The nutritional composition of more complex foods is better aligned to the body’s needs

2. It’s not about a specific health problem. Accumulating positive nutrients all together helps the body work better

3. It’s about more than the nutritional facts panel. Quality of calories, not the number of calories; implicit nutritional attributes, not explicit nutrient claims

4. It’s about what’s NOT there — including GMOs, hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. Foods without chemicals are better for you — even if the nutrition profile is identical

5. It’s about a connection to food. Sourcing that is transparent; production that hasn’t compromised the food

Personalized Nutrition: Not Necessarily New, But New Considerations

More than ever, people see food as being more intimately connected with wellness and their broader system of values: 84% of consumers say mental and emotional balance is every bit as important as physical health.

Personalization will continue to grow and become more specific as we learn about blood glucose levels, our microbiomes, DNA and how the foods we eat influence these biomarkers for near- and long-term health goals. How CPG manufacturers, retailers and restaurants can assist consumers is likely to come in the form of snacks, meals and beverages designed for one’s specific microbiome or DNA, similar to the DNA and meal delivery service Habit. It may take years for this type of personalization to democratize, but we anticipate more cost-effective online services and testing kits to engage consumers to biohack their way to optimal health and energy levels.

Three Future-Forward Considerations

People will be doing even more tailoring to their individual needs. How can you help consumers tailor your product or experience to their wellness goals, identities, etc., without contradicting or overly fragmenting your core proposition? Demonstrate that you understand that no “one size fits all … and not all the time.”

Experimentation with ingredients and approaches, inclusions and avoidances will increase. Is a (re)innovation of your product/brand/experience needed? Maybe not; however, know how trending avoidances may impact your current portfolio and how to speak the language of new wellness ingredients.

Key areas (microbiome, stress & sleep, neuro health, aging and beauty) will continue to be a core focus across consumer segments and occasions. How does your current offering engage with these elements? Determine how you can be conversant with the needs, outcomes, ingredients and practices that support these issues. 

Learn more about the modern expression of personalized nutrition through two key modalities, personalized diets/eating approaches and THG Health and Wellness 2019personalized supplements, in The Hartman Group’s Health + Wellness 2019: From Moderation to Mindfulness report. GET REPORT