Advancing human health and nutrition: DSM on the key trends driving its R&D 

636686267952203903young family at breakfast table.jpg

31 Jul 2018 --- Thriving in today’s business environment requires not only financial success, but hinges on an awareness of social responsibility, taking into account local and individualized preferences and needs as well as consumer education. This is according to Jeremy Xu, President Human Nutrition & Health at DSM, who spoke with NutritionInsight about the company’s focus on human health and nutrition as well as the key trends informing its innovation cycle.

The past months have seen a number of developments highlighting DSM’s commitment towards advancing its position within the human health and nutrition space.

Last month, the company announced it had set aside about €3 billion to spend on acquisitions to expand its nutrition business and maintain its profit growth. In its 2018 outlook, DSM reconfirmed it will position itself towards a Nutrition, Health and Sustainable Living company, “pursuing enhanced organic growth, with a purpose-led coherent set of business activities, with value-creating acquisitions predominantly in Nutrition.” 

The announcement was quickly followed by the news of a proposed sale of DSM Sinochem Pharmaceuticals (DSP) – a pharmaceutical joint venture with China’s Sinochem Group – to Bain Capital.

Click to Enlarge
Jeremy Xu, President Human Nutrition & Health at DSM.

“That was part of our life sciences strategy, moving us from a chemistry-based portfolio to a more life sciences and advanced material based portfolio. It was a strategic intervention,” Xu explains. “We want to be the leader in the human nutrition and animal nutrition spaces. We believe in the future, and only companies that can succeed in both social responsibility and financial results will win in the end.” 

“We are looking for more investment opportunities, especially in personalized nutrition as it’s an open field; we could grow through mergers and acquisitions and we are engaging some startups in that area,” Xu says, which is exemplified by the recently announced acquisition of an equity stake in personalized nutrition company Mixfit, making DSM the start-up’s largest shareholder with approximately 50 percent of shares.

Growing awareness
The key market and consumer trends as identified by DSM lie in the areas of increased consumer awareness and personalized nutrition. These trends are opening up new opportunities in more developed delivery forms, thereby leading to an increased interest in more advanced technologies and intra-industry learning.

“On the consumer side, which is always the first step when we look at the whole value chain, the first key trend we are observing is that increasing consumer health consciousness and the aging population offer a lot of opportunities. People are willing to spend time and money on their health and wellness and as a result, personalized nutrition is making waves in the industry,” Xu says. 

“The second trend involves innovations in delivery forms. The differences between delivery systems are blurring, by which I mean the lines between food and beverages, versus supplements, versus medicines – all forms for the delivery of health benefits,” Xu says. “Consumers are willing to take different forms to enjoy health benefits and the industry is responding very well to this. You see consumer goods companies going into the dietary supplement industry, or the pharmaceutical industry crossing over to the dietary supplement industry, and vice versa. This is because consumers are now much more flexible and open to experimentation.”

The third trend, according to Xu, refers to individualization of consumer identities, with technology providing a lot of convenience. 

“In response to these trends, on the industry level, companies are facing different challenges. For many big players, the strength of economies of scale is diminishing. With social media, the internet, you don’t need huge marketing budgets to promote your brand. Consumers are starting to look more to local brands to fit their individualism,” Xu says. “This is a huge challenge for our larger customers. Meanwhile, smaller newcomers are looking for total solutions. They cannot afford to invest into R&D for manufacturing. As the world’s largest ingredient manufacturer, we see a lot of opportunities to use our long-standing, science-backed expertise and technologies to help both big companies and smaller companies to develop total solutions.”

Taking R&D a step further
In line with these consumer and industry trends, continued investment in R&D remains key, keeping a keen eye on localized demands and preferences.

“Innovations, also known as R&D, in our book, can take different shapes or forms. Traditionally, we only look at R&D as inventing the next blockbuster molecules. Although we will continue to do that, our approach to innovation is much broader,” Xu notes. “That’s what the market is looking for. For example, in addition to creating new ingredients, we are also looking at new formulations and how to deliver the bioactives in more protected ways, to deliver these to the right targets at the right time.”

“Another area in which we are innovating is applications. We need to better understand the needs of our customers and consumers and put ingredients in a format that consumers will enjoy. The sensory attributes of consumer products are critical. As we all know, dietary preferences are often highly localized. If it doesn’t taste good, no one will want it. This is why we also invest heavily in our application capabilities,” he says.

“The last piece within innovation is our business model. Personalized nutrition to us is innovation because it integrates all innovative tools and technologies, such as diagnostics, big data, new delivery forms. You need all those technologies put together to make economic sense. To me, this is where the biggest innovations are coming up,” he says.

“If you think about the challenges across the entire spectrum of populations, the aging population [is key] – people want to live longer, healthier lives. Cognitive health, memory loss, bone health, eye health are all top health concerns for many consumers. These are areas that the industry as a whole needs to address much more proactively, with an eye on prevention rather than treatment.”

Education as an industry responsibility
Next to ongoing R&D and investment opportunities, Xu says the company sees a role for itself in educating consumers and suppliers alike.

“Regarding education, it is also our responsibility to educate consumers, but that’s also because we have the capabilities. We invest a lot in our nutrition proposition and we are still exploring how to integrate that education piece into our business model, looking at many platforms – webinars, seminars and the new technologies presented to us – to create an ongoing engagement with consumers,” he concludes.

By Lucy Gunn

To contact our editorial team please email us at

DSM Nutritional Products


DSM is a leading global supplier of nutritional and speciality ingredients to food, beverage and dietary supplement manufacturers. The company creates, manufactures and markets innovative products and services, which are used in a wide range of nutritional and nutraceutical applications. Through its  Quali® -Blends premix service, DSM offers market insights and expertise, providing high-quality, tailored premix solutions for a wide range of applications and target sectors. The Quality for Life™ seal aims to ensure the quality of DSM’s ingredients, and responds to growing demand for reliable and traceable products which meet today’s stringent safety and sustainability requirements.

DSM has a broad porfolio of ingredients and concept solutions on a global level, focusing on the production and commercialization of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients that enhance the health profile of products. These include a range of health benefit solutions: eye health, bone health, essentials for women, essentials for men, essentials for kids & teens, essential for vegetarians, energize your mind, relax your mind, empower your mind, heart health, beauty from within, weight management, sports nutrition, joint health, immunity, essential nutrition and healthy aging. DSM’s range of products delivers proven efficacy and is backed by solid research and technical understanding.

Related Articles

Business News

DSM enters UK distribution partnership with Salutivia

10 Aug 2018 --- Salutivia has been appointed as the UK distributor for DSM Nutritional Products within the food, nutrition and supplement markets for customers served through the DSM distributor supply chain.

Regulatory News

DSM pursues biotin patent suit against China’s Anhui Tiger

07 Aug 2018 --- DSM is pursuing a patent infringement lawsuit in China against a competitor for what it calls the “misappropriation of intellectual property” pertaining to the production of a key ingredient of Biotin (also known as Vitamin B7 or Vitamin H). On August 2, 2018, DSM IP Assets BV and two related operating group companies, DSM Vitamins (Shanghai) Ltd. and DSM Vitamins Trading (Shanghai) Ltd. served a suit against Anhui Tiger in China for patent infringement.

Business News

DSM reports surge in Q2 profit boosted by “exceptional vitamin pricing environment”

01 Aug 2018 --- Specialty chemicals company DSM has reported a second-quarter core profit of €508 million (US$593.2 million), up 35 percent compared to Q2 2017, boosted by an “exceptional vitamin pricing environment” and cost cuts. The company has further confirmed its outlook for the full year, based on expectations of an Adjusted EBITDA growth towards 25 percent and a related higher ROCE growth.

Health & Nutrition News

Reduced inflammation: DSM natural ingredient to aid Tour de France team performance

09 Jul 2018 --- Royal DSM is continuing to supply professional cycling team, Sunweb, with sports nutrition solutions in the form of its dietary antiplatelet, Fruitflow, at this year's Tour de France. The supplement is said to reduce the “toxic effects of exercise” which can include inflammation and an increased risk of blood clots due to platelet aggregation. The mainstreaming of sports nutrition is facilitating an increasing amount of research into all factors of sports recovery and performance, and DSM is seeing a lot of room for growth for products targeting consumers ranging from professional athletes to the more casual sports enthusiast.

Health & Nutrition News

Prioritizing nutrition: DSM sells pharma joint venture, takes majority stake in start-up

02 Jul 2018 --- Royal DSM has announced the proposed sale of DSM Sinochem Pharmaceuticals (DSP) – a pharmaceutical joint venture with China’s Sinochem Group – to Bain Capital. The move comes days after the Dutch company announced that it is seeking to streamline its portfolio and has set aside about €3 billion to expand its nutrition business. It suggests that further funds will become available for strategic moves within the nutrition arena, as DSM moves further away from its heritage chemical positioning and further cements itself as a leading nutrition powerhouse. 

More Articles