With consumers demanding more from the food system to support their health and wellbeing, innovation in targeted nutrition is continuing to grow and evolve. Here we have spotlighted 5 promising food tech innovations in Europe.
With almost two billion adults either overweight or obese (1) and over 800 million underweight (2), the world is faced by contradictory health and nutrition challenges. As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of understanding our own nutrition has never been so important. And targeted nutrition provides a solution.
Food is a complex mixture of calories and dietary chemicals, some of which are directly related to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) (a disease that is not transmissible directly from one person to another) such as diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer. The challenge of the individual also means that food is different for everybody; consumers with diabetes, for example, have to measure their sugar intake whereas someone wihout diabetes might not even consider it. Modern diets are also frequently made up of irregular and unbalanced meals which not only increases the risk of NCDs but can also cause stress and fatigue.
While many different solutions exist for helping consumers to eat balanced diets and reduce these risks, targeted nutrition can allow them to better understand their own personal nutritional needs and prevent NCDs and illness altogether. Speaking at the EIT Food Innovation Forum, Javier Aranceta, Chairman of the Royal Basque Nutrition Academy and of the Community Nutritional Science Committee, explained that “dietary guidelines and food pyramids are useful for 80% of the population. The others will have special needs.”
What is targeted nutrition?
Targeted nutrition is a personalised approach to nutritional products and dietary guidance to create behavioural change towards more healthy and tailored diets as well as optimised for the individual. Special medical or dietary needs can also be taken into account when creating targeted nutrition products for vulnerable groups and consumers.
“There is no one single definition of a healthy diet, although there are certain patterns, such as it should be balanced in nutrients. Even so, this will always depend on the characteristics of each individual and their environment.”
Gregorio Varela, Chairman of the Spanish Nutrition Association (3)
Targeted nutrition innovation presents promising opportunities for consumers and can also be used within medical practices and food production. Health services, for example, can use targeted nutrition plans to support recovering hospital patients or those that suffer with micronutrient deficiencies. And the food industry can optimise the nutritional profiles of food products by better understanding the needs and demands of their consumers.
The market for personalised nutrition products is increasing by a 15% annual growth rate (4) and, with clear interest and growing investment, innovation within the market has seen great diversification. Here we have spotlighted 5 different targeted nutrition innovations in Europe that are driving positive change and helping consumers to eat healthier diets:
1. LOEWI: Tailored food supplements based on blood and lifestyle diagnostics
LOEWI, a scientific spin-off of the Technical University of Munich and member of the EIT Food RisingFoodStars Association, is disrupting the food supplement market. By using high-quality blood and lifestyle diagnostics, LOEWI creates tailored food supplements that include the necessary vitamins, minerals and vital substances specific to the consumer.
The diagnostics take personal goals, allergies, medications and illnesses into account and create dietary plans that can reduce the need for medication and health interventions. “Personalised nutrition should not only be reserved for top athletes but should be available to everyone who strives for optimal health. Through the unique combination of science and technology, we are able to make personalised nutrition accessible to everyone,” says Philipp Merk, one of the founders of LOEWI.
LOEWI also recently entered into a partnership with Royal DSM to support the recently launched initiative Hologram Sciences, who also specialise in food tech innovation for targeted nutrition (see below!).
2. Hologram Sciences: Consumer facing digital platforms for personalised nutrition and advice
Royal DSM, a global science-based company in nutrition, health and sustainable living, recently announced the launch of Hologram Sciences, a consumer-facing company that creates brands targeting a variety of health conditions. By combining health diagnostics, digital coaching and personalised nutrition, the brands aim to provide consumers with more holistic solutions to manage their health.
The digital platform also gives consumers access to registered dietitians, designed to allow consumers to better understand how their lifestyle, nutrition and other factors impact overall health and what they can do to live healthier lives.
3. BeYou: AI-driven health and wellness coach
BeYou, a member of the EIT Food RisingFoodStars Association, has created a health coaching platform to help consumers in the pursuit of complete wellness through the use of mobile apps and AI-driven health and wellness solutions. BeYou offers a number of apps and services, including the BeYou App which offers personalised meal plans, custom exercise routines, support from trained coaches and rewards that incentivise consistency.
The Nutrify online marketplace by BeYou also allows users to select their wellness coach according to their needs. The coaches can inform them of their daily choices in nutrition, physical activity, weight, mood and sleep behaviour. The coaches then create tailored meal plans, physical training and other relevant advice to support the users.
“Over the last two decades, obesity has more than doubled,” said Abir-Jean Mehawej, Director and Co-founder of BeYou, on an episode of the Food Fight podcast (5). Abir-Jean explained that because of the unique and complex challenges experienced by each person, targeted nutrition can help to better understand and manage personal obesity challenges.
4. PeRsOnalized nutriTion for hEalthy livINg (PROTEIN): ICT-based data system for personalised nutrition
PeRsOnalized nutriTion for hEalthy livINg (PROTEIN), a project under the European research initiative Horizon 2020, aims to develop an ICT-based data system for personalised nutrition that offers a daily programme adapted to people’s needs, characteristics and personal preferences. The system is based on the collection and analysis of large volumes of data related to users' dietary behavioural patterns, physical activity and individual parameters.
The PROTEIN system uses novel scientific achievements and food technologies and is trialling image-based food identification and food weight estimations, food intake estimation based on smart scale data, eating rate analysis based on video and smartwatch data, bowel sound analysis using a smart belt, and an AI-based nutrition and physical activity advisor.
5. Eagle Genomics: microbiota-based solutions to personal care
With a particular focus on the microbiome, EIT Food RisingFoodStar Eagle Genomics aims to advance data science and drive scientific discovery in the fields of human genomics and microbiomics. The microbiome is the population of bacteria, viruses and fungi which coexist in our bodies. Eagle Genomics’ platform helps researchers and organisations to use microbiome datasets to better understand nutritional and environmental needs.
“Because these organisms are invisible, we have systematically ignored them for the last two hundred years as science has evolved and developed,” said Anthony Finbow, Chief Executive of Eagle Genomics, on an episode of the Food Fight podcast (6). “We’re trying to focus on revealing the secrets of the microbiome so that we can incorporate the models back into our understanding of wellness models, illness models and even to address the challenge of solving illness through nutrition.”
Targeted nutrition and EIT Food
As we draw closer to milestone events such as the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) where bold new commitments will be made to improve our health, targeted nutrition continues to be a key focus area for EIT Food.
As part of the UNFSS game-changing solutions, we have launched a nutrition course on FutureLearn specifcally aimed at medical students. Unless specialised, doctors and medical professionals do not receive adequate training about nutrition and food - with some university courses not including “any programme about nutrition at all,” said registered GP Dr Margherita Ronco (7). “In my everyday practice, I always give nutritional advice. As you analyse blood, you need to tell them something about glycemia or high fats in the blood; I'm always acting like a dietitian. If there's something that's too much for me, I just send them over to a more specialised doctor, basically,” explained Dr Ronco (7).
The total number of hours a medical student spends on nutrition and food is as little as 4 to 20 hours throughout their entire degree, and this FutureLearn course will provide an additional 16 hours. This aims to shape the future of nutrition and allow medical professionals to offer more personalised and effective advice to their patients.
- EIT Food: Obesity, malnutrition and food insecurity: what are the solutions?
- EIT Food: Food Fight podcast: Getting personal with nutrition
- EIT Food: Food Fight podcast: The micrbiome & healthy guts
- WHO: Obesity and overweight
- FAO: The state of food security and nutrition in the world
- EIT Food: Personalised nutrition will be the key for the agrifood industry of the future, say experts at the EIT Food Innovation Forum
- Statista: Size of the worldwide personalized nutrition market in 2020 with a forecast for 2025
- EIT Food: Food Fight podcast: Spotlight: BeYou on digital health
- EIT Food: Food Fight podcast: Spotlight: Eagle Genomics on data science
- EIT Food: Food Fight podcast: Should nutrition be a fundamental part of healthcare?