Future Food-Tech start-ups tap into “revolutionizing” potential for personalized nutrition and food as medicine
16 Sep 2021 --- Technology is making major waves across the nutrition industry, enabling greater levels of personalization and cutting-edge breakthroughs. However, it is not a silver bullet, with various gaps and limitations meaning that sometimes simplicity is best.
Ahead of the Future Food-Tech summit taking place online and in London, UK, September 30 to October 1, NutritionInsight speaks with some of the 23 start-ups who will be showcasing their solutions for health and nutrition.
The companies are active in precision and microbial fermentation, food as medicine, functional ingredients, plant-based alternatives, personalized nutrition, AI and data science, supply chain transparency, biotechnology, sugar reduction and the microbiome. Among the exhibitors are:
- FYXX Health: Turns ingredients like probiotics, fiber, beta-glucans, key minerals, vitamins and herbs into low-sugar, low-carb snacks, cookies, sweets and beverage mixes to combat chronic disease.
- Healthycell: Uses Microgel technology to deliver nutrients that consumers can absorb in a pill-free experience. It just closed a US$1.6 million bridge funding round.
- Healright: Offers bars filled with micronutrients and fibers for optimal gut performance. In January, it launched an e-commerce platform for its bars.
- Eagle Genomics: Enables the conversation between microbiome data and the scientist to unlock data-driven product claims for novel food products. In May, it expanded its operation in India.
- GlucoZero: Holds a patent for juice and fruit preparations with low glycemic response and preserved juice taste.
- Happ: Building a personalized food navigator – an ecosystem of partners and consumers to offer food as a service.
- The Gut Stuff: Founded by twins who bring efficacious and affordable snack bars and fermentation kits to the masses.
- Evolve BioSystems: Develops products that colonize the infant gut to aid life-long health. It restores the functional losses in newborn gut deficiency and the inability to metabolize human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs).
Over the last five years, the nutrition industry has evolved to embrace technology for multiple purposes, but three elements have particularly benefited from technological innovations, argues Anthony Finbow, CEO of Eagle Genomics.
First, technology has helped grow the understanding of the role and impact of micronutrients on human health.
Additionally, it has been key in measuring the impact that food has on health. For instance, innovation has enabled industry to monitor the health of consumers in response to different nutrition initiatives.
“It has also allowed us to commercialize nutritional tools that were previously unavailable to average consumers or exclusively limited to healthcare treatments, such as constant glucose monitoring,” continues Finbow.
Tracy Shafizadeh, director of scientific communications at Evolve BioSystems, adds that the nutrition industry has appropriated many forms of technology to make leaps in developing components of natural mimics of complex nutritionals, like breast milk. This is while optimizing economic ways to develop these products.
Technology drivers personalization
The third element is how technology has played a key role in diet personalization, helping scientists analyze biological and behavioral data from individuals to design nutritional strategies that adapt to personal needs.
“From easy micronutrient measurements in blood from Baze to using glucose sensors for personalized nutritional advice at ClearHealth, these would not have been possible five years ago,” adds Nard Clabbers, chief science officer of Happ.
“Technology in nutrition will become more important as we see nutrition getting increasingly more personalized to an individual’s specific needs,” adds Rebecca McKinnon, clinical specialist at Healright.
The growth of microbiome research and testing, DNA and blood testing, as well as targeted nutraceuticals, will dramatically impact food as medicine, making it possible to get personalized nutrition delivered to your door, she anticipates.
“Even five years ago, if you’d told us food logging apps, and even recipe apps would be completely mass market, we probably would’ve been surprised,” adds Lisa Macfarlane, co-founder of The Gut Stuff.
“It’s incredibly exciting how we can also use technology within food retail, with education at point of sale – we really have an incredibly exciting opportunity to educate customers at every point of their journey – both digitally and in-store,” she continues.
Expecting too much?
However, technology has not yet solved all gaps in nutraceutical development. “Many people expect too much from technology,” warns Clabbers.
“In the end, technology should be used to empower people and to help them change their behavior. If you think that ‘the best tech’ will enable that, you are often mistaken. Technology needs to be simple and add value for large groups of consumers, not just for the niche athlete or ‘quantified self’ enthusiasts.”
Sung Park, CEO of FYXX Health, also stresses that technology should be simple and fun. “Hard and complex never wins.”
In this vein, compliance can be a major sticking point for technology. “The most technically effective approach in the world will be rendered ineffective if compliance is low. There must be a balance between technical efficacy and compliance to achieve the best user outcome,” says Douglas Giampapa, CEO of Healthycell.
Another consideration is consumer perceptions around technology. For example, many people – especially in Europe – are cautious about food containing genetically modified organisms or produced with the aid of gene technology, notes Jürgen Schrezenmeir, co-founder of GlucoZero.
Macfarlane adds that there are technological limitations to how far personalization – especially in microbiome testing – can go. “This is why it’s important that we’re honest with consumers about where the science is at and empower them to make the right choices in the meantime.”
By Katherine Durrell
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