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Connected Consumers and the Disruption of the Vitamin and Dietary Supplements (VDS) World

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Carolina Ordonez Bio

Connected consumers are increasing purchases of VDS products mainly due to two factors: 1) they are learning more about self-care and are therefore buying more nutritional products for prevention, and 2) consumers monitoring real-time health are leading to an increasing demand for personalized nutrition (eg customized VDS) that integrates their health data.

More investment in nutritional products, especially within the online channel

The new connected consumers are educated consumers who are increasingly tied to the internet and social media, primarily through mobile devices, which they use to influence their consumption decisions and purchase products of all types. Within consumer health, these consumers tend to proactively take control of their health and wellness and increasingly seek customized health products and apps that digitally monitor their health.

This is leading to strong growth of VDS products in general, as prevention opportunities are expanding in tandem with VDS value sales which grew at 2% CAGR 2011-2016 and reached US$91 billion. More specifically, these consumers are also expanding e-commerce in VDS, as globally internet retailing is the fastest growing sales channel, with sales doubling over 2011-2016 and reaching US$12 billion, due to the convenience that online platforms bring to the new connectedconsumer.

Real-time health monitoring as a self-care driver: A platform for personalized nutrition

The connected consumer is not only buying more VDS products but is also monitoring their health in real time and wants to have this information integrated in one customized VDS product. This is opening up a large new space for the VDS industry while also challenging companies.

As a result, many VDS companies are popping up around the world to satisfy a new consumer need: digital personalized nutrition. This level of customization will continue growing and will integrate health data to create a unique supplement experience. In the near future, this customized VDS will potentially include: clean label formulations (eg Non GMO, organic, whole food, etc.) adjusted to age, gender, weight, physical activity, genetic tests, blood tests, microbiome tests, dietary restrictions, and health records. This supplement could also be manufactured on-demand with a 3D printer with VDS companies simultaneously offering access to wellness coaches, diet and fitness tips, and much more via membership programs. In other words, the VDS industry will provide the product based on the connected consumer’s unique design/preference.

The ultimate supplement experience: a customized VDS solution

Source: Euromonitor International

While personalized nutrition is still perceived to have premium prices, it is expected to see a decline in cost due to technology getting less expensive over time and increases in offerings. A great example of a personalized nutrition company is Ixcela – The Internal Fitness Company. Based in Bedford, MA, the company was co-founded in 2012 by Dr. Erika Angle, an M.I.T. graduate with a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Boston University School of Medicine. Dr. Angle is also Ixcela’s CEO and I recently had the opportunity to talk to her about her vision of personalized nutrition and Ixcela. Below is the summary of our discussion:

Which advances do you think will have the greatest impact on personalized nutrition?

Solid science is the answer. Here at Ixcela we believe you first need to know what you are starting with. Ixcela develops a personalized assessment of your “internal fitness” (i.e. gut health) using a multi-faceted model built on levels of a dozen key small molecules which indicate overall gut function. Depending on an individual’s results, we recommend science-based supplementation. If you don’t need anything, we don’t recommend anything. Where is the industry going? Science.

Do you think personalized nutrition will inspire people to live healthier lives? Will this help to reduce healthcare costs, for example?

I hope so. The traditional consumer doesn’t understand what the gut microbiome is yet and this is a marketing challenge. We want people to make better choices, but this means that the consumer needs to better understand and filter what they read and learn. How we get people to easily understand what they need is the challenge. We, at Ixcela, just want to help with one piece of the puzzle, but consumers need to complement personalized nutrition with a more holistic approach that also includes visits to the doctor, sports, a healthy diet, etc.

What makes Ixcela unique?

There are plenty of gut microbiome companies that ask you for a stool samples, but stool lab tests do not give a comprehensive view of your gut health and many companies do not give actionable next steps either. Something similar happens with gene tests, they give you a fingerprint but they don’t provide a systemic view and what to do with it. Ixcela instead collects blood, which is much simpler to collect than a stool sample, and not only gives you a current snapshot of your biochemistry but also gives you recommendations, and then re-tests to make sure that what we recommend is working. We analyze the consumer’s microbiome and, based on this, we create ad hoc supplements to improve “internal fitness”. The consumer receives a personalized monthly regimen of natural vitamins and supplements, if they need it.

What would you advise to consumer health companies looking to invest in personalized nutrition?

I would tell them to look for backed-by science companies, the ones that are asking the right science questions. Make sure their investment targets are backed by hard science, like we are.

For further insights about the Vitamins and Supplement Industry, please check out our new Global Briefing: Vitamins and dietary supplements (VDS): Trends and prospects 2017


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