There's no doubt that food is already deeply personal. Likes and dislikes vary from person to person and can shift significantly throughout our lives. It's not just what we eat that is affected by personal preferences though. The way our body reacts to what we eat is also personal. A new study revealed that "no two people's bodies responded exactly the same way to common foods." No surprise then that there has been an increased focus on 'personalised nutrition' in recent years.
Through personalised nutrition, individuals can access dietary insights and nutritional guidelines that are unique to them in order to create the best possible meal plan for their specific needs. Companies such as DNAfit use genetic insights gained from a saliva swab to do just that, giving customers access to the personalised meal plans they crave. DNAfit is certainly not alone in jumping on board with this emerging trend, but personalised nutrition does not always rely on DNA or gut microbiome. Some companies rely on consumer-supplied information on health and dietary requirements, while others focus on insights from health trackers to gain a detailed understanding of activity levels and food intake. The market is flooded with companies that promise customised meal plans, recipes or supplements on an individual level.
It's difficult to gauge current interest in personalised nutrition, but we do know that consumers are finding it more difficult and less convenient to find the right food products to match their specific dietary requirements. A recent report from FMI and The Hartman Group revealed that consumers visit an average of 4.4 banners per month, while they also regularly shop 3.1 channels to meet their diverse grocery needs. “One-third of households have at least one family member following a non-medically prescribed diet, and this rate is higher for younger generations,” according to FMI's Leslie G. Sarasin, giving context to the difficulty consumers encounter when attempting to fulfil their personal dietary requirements and those of their families.
It's an issue that's crying out to be solved. The grocery, CPG and smart kitchen spaces are already investing heavily in personalisation strategies. The smart kitchen is leading the way, with the likes of Innit offering home cooks the opportunity to customise recipes based on their personal likes, dislikes and dietary requirements, and matching consumers with products through their Shopwell app. For many consumers though, the food journey likely begins in the grocery store. We've written at length about how much customer data is available to grocery retailers, and how it isn't currently being used to its full potential, but increased interest in personalised nutrition requires retailers to take it up a level. Working with companies that employ AI to gain insight into what consumers truly want, grocery retailers can not only provide personalised product suggestions but also take things a step further and offer recipe suggestions and meal plans that specifically match their customers' needs. That's not to say that this does not already exist. Tesco offers personalised meal plans on its website, albeit using relatively broad categories. This is fantastic if you're a gluten-avoiding vegetarian who wants to eat meals that make use of seasonal fruits and vegetables. An increased interest in health and wellness though means that many consumers are following more niche diets, and grocery retailers are struggling to keep up. Creating a truly personalised food experience for consumers not only helps fulfil their dietary requirements, but it increases convenience and reduces the need for consumers to visit an average of 4.4 retailers.
Whether through genetic insights or simply through gaining a greater understanding of what consumers truly want, it's clear that the push towards a more personal way of eating is well on its way. Since personalisation strategies have the power to increase basket value (by about 3% in the case of one retailer), personalised nutrition and meal plans benefit the retailer as well as the consumer.