Personalized Nutrition: The Future of Supplements


Walking into a Vitamin Shoppe or a GNC can be daunting for anyone who has not spent hours consulting the Internet to understand what it is that is appropriate for their individual set of goals and needs. Even then, when consumers research what will help them lose weight, they have probably received vastly different (and often conflicting) pieces of advice:

For instance – Green tea extract? One site may say it has antioxidants and caffeine, which boosts the body’s metabolic rate. Another site may disagree, suggesting that caffeine actually causes the body to rest less effectively, which can actually cause weight gain.

This is all further complicated by the fact that oftentimes you have no idea who it is that is suggesting (or disparaging) a particular supplement and whether or not they have some vested interest in pushing you one way or another.

This approach to buying supplements leads to a great deal of the confusion and frustration that consumers experience today. When you take this into account alongside the plethora of erroneous reports, it is no wonder that consumers shy away from nutritional supplements as a whole. As a result, both the nutritional supplement industry and the consumer suffer.

How Personalized Wellness Is Changing the Market.

Companies like 23andMe are at the forefront of the idea that a consumers’ approach to their health should be a deeply personal thing. By understanding their own genetic health risks they can actively take action to lower both their chances of developing certain conditions and mitigate the effects of these conditions in the event they do occur. Publications like Fast Company and Nutrition Business Journal have been quick to point out that this change in how people think about their health and wellness signals a seismic shift in the industry. No longer do people look at generalized, population wide statistics, instead everything is unique to the individual. This trend toward personalized health and wellness has taken hold and become a hot button topic of 2014, with nearly every adjacent industry preparing and launching products in an attempt to aid individuals in realizing better long-term health.

The nutritional and dietary supplement industry remains conspicuously absent, however. Outside of broad categorizations, dietary supplement manufacturers do not seem to make any meaningful distinction between individuals. It cannot be disputed that dietary supplements are not a “one size fits” all solution. On the contrary, as incredibly complex individuals, each consumer likely will benefit from a very different set of supplements to best realize their goals and accommodate their lifestyle. Unfortunately, the industry remains focused on selling individual products as opposed to comprehensive solutions. Many committed consumers (gym aficionado’s mostly) will end up purchasing dozens of different jars and bags and then mixing all of it themselves. These individuals unfortunately are in the stark minority – they exhibit a willingness to take substantial amounts of time both to educate themselves and then to actually mix a number of separate products themselves, a practice that is not shared by the majority of potential customers.

An uncomfortable truth for many dietary supplement manufacturers is the fact that most dietary  and nutritional supplements that consumers can benefit from are out there in the market and have been for quite some time. This, of course, is not what certain contingencies in the supplement industry would like consumers to understand. There is a huge portion of the industry that relies on being able to repackage yet another protein or creatine product as the next big thing to drive sales. Sure, one protein may be marginally better than the next, but the larger issue at hand is that there is a huge segment of consumers who might see a real benefit toward achieving their goals from a certain nutritional supplement that is not taking that supplement at all simply due to a lack of reliable information.. Currently, with the exception of those individuals willing to commit a large amount of money to seeing a nutritionist or time in educating themselves, there exists no way to identify what supplements might be right for their unique set of needs and goals.

Fortunately, technology has finally reached a place where personalized wellness can solve this problem for consumers. In doing so, it can dramatically reduce consumer confusion, improve results and attract new consumers who previously found the supplement industry inaccessible and confusing. The industry as a whole should embrace the fact that it is in a position where consumers will no longer be forced to do burdensome amounts of research only to go out and buy a dozen different products. This should serve to boost the public perception of the supplement industry all while attracting new customers. This by no means will replace the role of a nutritionist, if anything it will enable consumers to have a good middle ground where they can choose to use a nutritionist or not. Either way, they will not be entirely blind to true extent of their nutritional options.

23andMe has proven that consumers are willing to undergo some measure of inconvenience if it will yield a meaningful benefit. For the supplement industry, this means finding ways to solicit information about an individual consumer and then developing ways to use that information to provide consumers with tightly curated supplements specific to their goals and needs.

Empowering the consumer and offering transparency.

Personalized wellness at its heart revolves around consumer empowerment. Consumers now have access to more data about themselves than ever. This data has empowered consumers to take an active role in the management of their health and wellness – from the foods they eat, the supplements they take to the way they exercise.

Providing consumers personalized nutritional supplement recommendations and products based on their own goals and needs will serve to add another leg to the stool. Instead of buying the same multivitamin off the shelf that is sold to people with radically different needs there will now be the ability to provide a highly customized vitamin – one which has been formulated to address the specific needs of the individual in question. That day isn’t here quite yet, but soon will be. Further, a consumer will be able to understand what the ingredients are and why they are important to them. This level of empowerment will revolutionize the ownership people take over their own long-term health goals.

Alongside empowerment, personalized wellness necessitates transparency. Few markets have suffered from the perception of a historical lack of transparency to the consumer more than the supplement industry. Admittedly, when asked to explain what is in a given supplement a consumer is far too often woefully uninformed and confused. It’s no wonder that trust has been in short supply. Personalization and customization across the supplement industry presents a shining opportunity to make a stark reversal and create an environment where consumers are informed and educated about both themselves and the supplements they take.

Personalization means relationships.

When someone walks out of a traditional nutritional supplement retailer their engagement with that store is at an end. There is no one invested in their success. Further, there is no one to turn to with questions or concerns. It seems ironic that in an industry dealing with something as personal as your body and wellness that there would be a total lack of relationships with the people providing the products.

Personalized wellness, and de facto personalized supplements, will necessitate a shift away from thinking of the industry as simply the sale of retail products and toward a relationship driven service business. The service provided is assistance accomplishing goals – it just happens to be provided through products. Unlike clothes, cars or even technology, consumers can make little determination of the adequacy of a product when they walk out of a storefront. Wellness is a journey – the supplement industry increasingly needs to embrace the role of partnership with their customers – and at the same time provide accountability and easy means for consumers to ask questions and submit complaints.

Supplement manufacturers will only stand to gain from providing this kind of personalization. By developing a means of having an active dialogue with customers companies can create a system where the customized solutions they offer will change in response to any shifts in their customers lives. In the end, customers will see improvements and in turn stay loyal customers longer. In short, everyone wins.

As we’ve stressed here, getting the right supplements for your unique set of goals and needs is imperative. WellPath has created unique technology designed to understand your set of goals and needs and design a custom supplement just for you. Click here to learn more.