Big Data driving personalised nutrition

FEATURED SPEAKER Future of Nutrition Summit and Hi Europe 2018 CONFERENCE

Technology has been a driving force behind innovation across industries, and the tech-enabled personalised nutrition trend within F&B seems to be no exception. What can the F&B industry learn from other industries that have fully incorporated big data analysis into their business models? We talked to Mariette Abrahams, nutrition business consultant, dietitian and founder of Mariette Abrahams Consulting and Associates, to discuss the tech-driven future of the industry.

Mariette Abrahams


How has the personalised nutrition trend developed in the last 5 years? What is the main focus within personalised nutrition at the moment?
“Just to start off, I tend to refer to it as the tech-enabled personalised nutrition trend, because personalised nutrition has been practiced for years, however the advent of cloud computing and biotechnology has given personalised nutrition a lift. I would say there has been a huge change, 5 years ago it was all about DNA and we have seen a massive shift to making health and nutrition information transparent, accessible and more applicable in every-day life. New products, platforms and services are becoming both, more data-driven and more consumer centric. As science becomes a more integral part of the tech-enabled personalised nutrition space, we see those that are not based on solid science disappearing from the industry."

"The way I see it, the main focus of the industry currently is to make sense of all the data that is being gathered in real time, from online searches, to trackers, tests results, to which product barcodes are scanned. The challenge is to package the insights in meaningful ways to make it easy and understandable for the average consumer. This will allow them not only to see the real benefit of a personalised approach, but also how it may impact their health in the long term, as it might not be obvious."

"I also see a great shift from working in siloes and trying to become an industry leader to one more of collaboration, partnerships and joint projects. I think this is a great move, the more diversity and shared learning, the stronger the industry will become.”

There are other sectors also working to develop personalised tools for consumers. Are there any the F&B industry should be looking to for inspiration?
“I think the food retail sector is one that is making huge strides in helping consumers to choose and eat healthier. The concept of shoppable recipes, personalised discount vouchers and access to experts (I hope) is a genuine move to provide value as well as re-instil trust in F&B manufacturers.”

What tools or concepts in particular do you think could be transferable to nutrition?
“There are many examples that are transferable and that we could learn from. The two obvious examples are Amazon and Netflix: both use big data approaches to understand their customers at a very personal level. To provide personalised recommendations, send alerts with the right product at the right time or even adjust what you should eat depending on what is happening in your life, these are all very real applications in nutrition, but are yet to be fully realised."

"During my presentation at the Future of Nutrition Summit I will also look at how analogy thinking within other industries, such as pharma, aviation and telecoms can be applied to nutrition.”

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Can you highlight any exciting new startups emerging in this space that we could be keeping an eye on?
“I think the area of flavour analytics is very exciting, taste has such a huge influence on how we choose foods. I also love the fact that food waste is so high on the agenda across the globe and I think more can be done to find creative solutions to develop new products that are high in nutritional biological value. I also think technology companies are working more closely with food companies to provide direction to consumers, which I think is very exciting. However, we need to be careful that these recommendations are grounded in science to ensure that consumers don’t unnecessarily have restricted diets.”

Where is next for the personalised nutrition trend?
“As we start gaining more insights from across the spectrum of the personalised nutrition industry, I think research output and translation thereof will be exponential, and the result will be better products. The industry will just get faster and smarter, and it is important that all stakeholders at least attempt to move at the same pace, otherwise it may be difficult to hold each player accountable. In order to build consumer trust, education, transparency of information, as well as consistently demanding an evidence-based approach to new products will be crucial.”

If you had to name one trend or technology that is going to disrupt the F&B industry in the next few years, what would it be?
“Luckily, I am not betting money on it, but my best guess is that data-science is the trend that will affect the industry the most. Not all companies have incorporated a data-analytics approach to marketing, consumer profiling or product development as there are many challenges. However, this is not an excuse. By creating a great team of experts from different backgrounds, I foresee a time where this approach will be indispensable.”


To learn more about the application of analogy thinking to F&B industry through the examples of such applications in other industries (pharma, airline and mobile phone), register for Mariette Abrahams’ presentation 'Crossing boundaries: learning from other
industries to develop personalised solutions' on Monday, 26 November, 15.50 at the Future of Nutrition Summit.