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Vitafoods Europe 2019: Personalized nutrition start-ups “filling the delivery systems gap”

Research into personalized nutrition is continuous and expanding, yet adequate delivery methods have been lacking. A host of consumer-facing start-ups are seeking to fill this space, and at Vitafoods Europe 2019, held last week in Geneva, Mixfit and Panaceutics Nutrition were exhibiting their offerings. Personalized nutrition has also caught the attention of big industry players, such as Royal DSM, who has invested in both of the aforementioned start-ups.

“The importance of individual nutrition has been emerging for the past ten years. In this time, we have seen a lot of tests arise that help people to see how they have individualized needs. However, there has been a gap on the delivery side, and we are looking to fill that gap,” Justin Plummer, Senior Project Manager at Panaceutics Nutrition, tells.

Personalized nutrition contrasts outdated notions such as a one-size-fits-all approach. This is evidenced by technologies utilized by the companies operating in the space, as well as the mounting importance of health data. DNA sequencing from stool, saliva and blood, Smartphone apps and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are increasingly commonplace, among advancements in 3D printing and wearable technologies.

Panaceutics Nutrition uses patented technologies to combine digital data on daily habits, genomics and biomarkers, allowing for cost-effective and scalable manufacturing of individual formulations. This then drives its on-demand robotic manufacturing platform to make an individual’s “pill-free” blended formula, delivered in a ready-to-consume, shelf-stable packaged product. The start-up's position in the personalized nutrition space was strengthened by its partnership with DSM’s venture investment arm, DSM Venturing, which was formalized in April this year.

DSM Venturing has been actively engaging with disruptive start-ups, particularly because an entrepreneurial mindset often means that ideas come to fruition faster, compared to large corporations. However, investment and wider business support are also often required to make innovations a commercial reality, with the potential to improve the lives of populations worldwide.

The companies will collaborate on several personalized health projects, including adapting Panaceutics’ exclusive technology to manufacture additional formats, such as personalized beverages and bars. The tie-up also aims to expand the reach, as well as visibility, of Panaceutics’ individually tailored nutrition formulations, as well as adding to DSM’s personalized nutrition capabilities. These were already strengthened with its equity stake in Mixfit in 2018.

Last year, DSM also acquired a majority stake in personalized nutrition start-up Mixfit. The combination of DSM’s customized solutions and Mixfit’s advanced technology means consumers can analyze and receive the nutrients they need at the time they need them and from the convenience of their own homes, DSM reports.

Mixfit’s Intelligent Nutrition Assistant (Mina) is the Artificial Intelligence (AI) that analyzes a person’s genetic makeup, alongside their diet, lifestyle and health goals, to create and dispense beverages containing a customized mix of DSM’s Quali Blends with vitamins and minerals throughout the day.

At Vitafoods Europe 2018, Mixfit and DSM exhibited Mina’s prototype device and this year, it was showcasing its commercialization-ready product.

“Our device is fully ready for commercialization now. Its smaller and has improved connectivity compared to the prototype we displayed last year. We are already working on our next update, which will see the device become even slighter,” Philippe Jayet, Senior Software Engineer, Mixfit, tells.

“The beverage is individualized to each person using the device. So, each drink is completely unique. If you take one in the morning and one in the evening, each will be different. Its composition will vary based on the activity level and the food a person has consumed,” he explains.

Is personalized nutrition the future?
A 2018 consumer study conducted by DSM found that only seven percent of people in Europe are confident in their understanding of the term “personalized nutrition.” In the UK, 55 percent of respondents had never heard of “personalized nutrition” and levels of experience of the approach are low across Europe. Despite the need for further education, the desire to learn more about personalized nutrition is high, with 58 percent of people stating they would be interested in finding out more.

One aspect that makes personalized nutrition appeal to consumers is that it can simplify a space that can be both confusing and intimidating to consumers.

“What is really resonating with consumers is that our personalized offerings make sense of complex issues. It covers vitamins – which people know about – but consumers don't always know about doses, for example, or eastern medicines such as adaptogens,” Plummer explains.

“On a genetic level, you can learn about your full receptor status and choose if your body needs a classic folic acid or methylfolate, for example. This can be particularly useful for pregnant women. On a personal level, we can take food frequency questionnaires to see what a person eats on an average day and instead of giving them a multivitamin to cover everything, we can give them something that just covers the nutrients they are likely to be deficient in,” he adds.

Although both start-ups are still focused on the B2C space, Jayet of Mixfit notes that the company is interested in B2B offerings as well, highlighting that the device could be suitable for gyms and offices, for example.

Personalized nutrition promises to be an interesting space to watch in the coming years with significant opportunities for growth.

Also at Vitafoods Europe last week, Lonza launched its new Vcaps Plus White Opal capsule in a bid to address the growing demand for opaque capsules that do not include titanium dioxide, DSM unveiled the top NPD-driving consumer health concerns and DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences put forward its hydrocolloid portfolio as a key solution to providing appropriate nutrition to those suffering from dysphagia – the medical term for swallowing difficulties.

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