Personalised nutrition can feel like a daunting premise, with countless different pills, gummies and even flavoured sprays an option at your local Boots or pharmacy. Many find themselves asking whether they can avoid the confusion over various supplement functions and required dosages by opting for the bog-standard multivitamin. And companies are aware of this, having made a conscientious effort to target and solve this issue with a more personalised vitamin approach.

Over the past decade, companies have been targeting potential customers with adverts to draw them in and recommend supplements specific to the individuals need. While there has not been hard evidence to support the benefits of taking a generic vitamin or multivitamin over a balanced and varied diet, with the rise in dietary habits and lifestyles such a veganism and vegetarianism, specifically tailored vitamins offer a solution that the one-size-fits- all spec of multivitamins lacks. For example, a vegetarian diet may find individuals lacking in vitamin B12, calcium and vitamin D, whereas a smoker could find themselves low on calcium, and vitamins C and D. Personalised nutrition, therefore, offers customers the opportunity to receive all the nutrients they need that might be missing in their diet.

Tailored solutions

It makes sense that the development of personalised nutrition is often touted as an opportunity for a healthy lifestyle, offering improved sleep, weight loss and mental health as just some of the health benefits. Estimated to be growing at 5–10%, according to a report by McKinsey, personalised nutrition has undoubtedly received a boost from the pandemic, with greater awareness on both physical and mental health. However, with all the heightened attention by the public and market, one would be mistaken for thinking that the industry has come on in leaps and bounds to keep up with development and innovation. According to founder and CEO of Nourished, Melissa Snover, this is not the case. “Despite its rapid growth in popularity and sales, the nutrition industry has remained relatively stagnant on an international level in terms of manufacturing innovation and improving the beneficial impacts for the end consumer,” she explains.

“The active ingredients in each custom order are chosen entirely by the consumer, and each stack is made on demand to ensure optimum efficacy and absorption levels.”

“The rising body of research supporting the hypothesis that all individuals are unique and thus require unique nutrition, has spurned a previously unserved need for bespoke nutrition. In addition, the poor quality of ingredients, excessive packaging and disjointed supply chain in the health and nutrition industry meant it had to be improved in order to move forward.”

Beginning her journey at 23, Snover is no stranger to innovation, developing the first and only vegan allergen-free gummy range in 2010 before turning to additive manufacturing, where she developed the first FDS and FDSA-approved food printer in 2015 that inspired her to create Nourished. “As an avid consumer of vitamins, I was growing frustrated by the limitations of personalised solutions on the market and having to carry multiple tablets, pills and supplements with me when I travelled,” says Snover. “I sought to develop a manufacturing process, which could create truly bespoke vitamin regimes, on demand and in real time.” After 18 months of research and development, Nourished launched the “world’s first” personalised vitamin gummy into the UK in 2020.

The personal touch

It’s not just Snover who noticed the demand for personalised and quality nutrition – many companies, new and existing, have embracing the world of nutrition and its need for a shake up, such as Nestle who acquired the majority of The Bountiful Company’s brands that are renowned for its dedication to quality and research, combined with the finest research. But some companies are taking this a step further along with Nourished, with a personalised approach to vitamins as their main offering.

Take Nourished, for example, if you simply fill out a two-minute quiz on their website, you can subscribe to receive a tailored blend of vitamins specific to your needs in the form of a “nourishment packed, seven-layer gummy” that promises scientifically proven ingredients. “At Rem3dy – [Nourished’s parent company] – we have developed a three-tiered stack of patented technology and a clever recommendation matrix algorithm, where we are able to gather information from individuals about their lifestyle and goals and 3D print a gummy vitamin which is specifically suited to them,” says Snover. “The active ingredients in each custom order are chosen entirely by the consumer, and each stack is made on demand to ensure optimum efficacy and absorption levels.”

At Vitl, another leading personalised vitamin provider, it also offers a free consultation to help identify specific diet, lifestyle and health goals to create a custom plan for its customers. On top of this, the company also offers at-home DNA and blood tests for a fee so they can identify what the body really needs. Customers can, therefore, swap out the drudgery of popping various pills each day for either a gummy or pill that promises to supply all the nutrients needed. With all personalisation promises, is it any wonder that the industry is gaining attention?

Customised nutrition

The ability to truly customise your daily vitamin supplements and have them delivered straight to your door offer the average consumer a level of simplicity that encourages intake and healthy living. As personalised vitamins use personal data and lifestyles to create the perfect supplement offering, consumers are able to target vitamin deficiencies and reach health goals more effectively. For Snover, it’s amazing that it took this long for the vitamin market to embrace personalisation. “In a world where we can personalise everything from our trainers to our coffee, it’s crazy to me that we have only recently been able to truly customise our nutrition regimes,” she admits.

“Everyone is unique and thus have different lifestyles, goals, health conditions, dietary requirements and personal preferences. A ‘one-size-fits- all’ supplement or multivitamin is not produced to suit these unique requirements, and the traditional manufacturing methods in the supplement industry are incapable of making truly bespoke solutions.

“Nourished offers a totally innovative and personalised product which allows the consumer to decide exactly what active ingredients go into their stack, their flavour and coating and even what name goes onto their packaging,” Snover continues. The tailored supplement and exact dosage can help avoid any negative outcomes that can come with blindly taking supplements as well – for example, rather than taking too much iron and risking iron toxicity, the personalised vitamin will have the exact dosage specific to each individual due to the data collected when signing up.

Lessons from Covid-19

Much of the increased awareness and focus on nutrition and health in the current market is a result of the pandemic, as the forced confinement to during various lockdowns and the fear of Covid lingering pushed many to become more health consciousness and proactive about their nutrition and immunity.

Roughly one in seven adults over 60 began taking vitamin D supplements since March 2020, an essential vitamin to aid immune functions as well as commonly associated with Covid-19, with those older or younger equally as likely to increase their supplement usage, according to a study by TILDA. “Understandably consumers became much more health conscious and sought preventative solutions to protect their immunity,” adds Snover. “Throughout the Covid pandemic we experienced an increasing interest for more personalised and convenient ways to take vitamins, which has allowed our business to develop and scale as a result.”

Despite the heightened attention and blossoming popularity of personalised nutrition, the market is not without its challenges, as Snover explains. “Truly personalised nutrition can only be achieved with innovation, and so the mainstream methods of production need to be revised and updated in order to move forward.” For Snover, the challenges lie in the mainstream production and manufacturing, which limits capacity for individual requirements and customisation, while creating a lot of waste. This is not the only barrier that personalised vitamins face, as the lack of hard evidence to support certain health benefits has left some sceptical of the industries claims. With many nutritional experts agreeing in support of essential vitamins through a balanced diet rather than additional supplement, this does nothing to help calm reservation. However, there is a consensus that, where a balanced diet with naturally occurring vitamins is not possible, they admit the benefits of taking a supplement on the advice of a professional.

In spite of these drawback, Snover is positive in looking ahead for the personalised vitamins industry, as she sees a huge opportunity for innovation and development within the market that will only grow over the next few years. “At Rem3dy we are excited about developments across a variety of sectors including women’s health, skincare, pet’s nutrition and oral health, as well as integrating our IP with new microbiome testing and wearable tech.

“Innovation is at the heart of everything we do and as such, we are continuously enhancing our technology to create further optimisations and automations which will help us to stay at the forefront of personalised nutrition.”

“Truly personalised nutrition can only be achieved with innovation, and so the mainstream methods of production need to be revised and updated in order to move forward.”

Benefits of K2 vitamins

Vitamins and minerals are all essential nutrients that the body needs to function properly and stay healthy. While most people should be able to get all the nutrients they need through a balanced diet, this is not always possible. According to WHO, nutrition is a critical part of health and development and can help lower the risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease. With malnutrition a present threat to human health, WHO supports global efforts to improve food systems to encourage a healthy diet. Of these beneficial nutrients, vitamin K is important for helping the body heal wounds and blood clotting, as well as direct calcium to bones and improving heart health.

Vitamin K has two main types, consisting of K1 and K2. While K1 is more well known, there have been several studies that have reported more benefits of vitamin K2, as it contributes to skin health and bone metabolism, while promoting brain function and preventing heart-related diseases. K2 is also important for the body’s use of calcium to help build bones and inhibit blood vessel calcification. It is an essential for assisting the body in utilising calcium, which is essential for healthy, strong bones and has been shown to lower calcium-associated health risk on the heart by inhibiting calcification and lowering vascular damage.

Found in animal and preserved foods, such as green leafy vegetables, cereals, fatty meat, eggs and fish, one should be able to get all the vitamin K needed through a varied and balanced diet. However, it is non-existent in junk foods and restrictive Western diets. Therefore, supplements could be beneficial if recommended by a medical professional.