Five minutes at FI Europe with …
Agro Food Industry Hi-Tech: What is your digital nutraceutical concept?
Jonathan Jones: The classical approach is to develop one product for all consumers. This is not viable nowadays, both for consumers and for producers. Consumers are more and more aware and want to know that what they are taking has a real effect on their health. What we have decided is to go from producer centricity to customer centricity, analyzing product use at the consumer level, working on three levels. First, we have a product that is scientifically and clinically proven to work. Second, we have tools to allow the user to track the consumption and the effects of the product. Third, to assess consumer appreciation and experience with the product.
AF: How is this implemented?
JJ: From the beginning of development of a product for a certain target, for example a weight loss product, we consider what are the measurable parameters to include in the mobile app. The same parameters are incorporated to validate the product in the pilot studies. So we have to consider specific ingredients that we know are effective because they have direct or indirect measurable properties, measurable by the cell phone itself or some wearable device.
AF: Such a concept requires user intervention to be minimal to work, I think.
JJ: Exactly, it must be as little as necessary. Clinical studies are very important to know how the product is going to act in the consumers when taking the product -for example the variability, so that we know how to respond to it. Also, when you monitor weight loss, for example you also have to monitor other parameters involved in weight loss such as physical activity, snacking, sleeping hours. Some subjective parameters, such as appetite, must be entered by the user. Many of them, however if the user is sufficiently connected with personal devices, such as a wireless weight scale, can be entered automatically.
AF: And is this already on the market?
JJ: Sure. We use it on our whole range of ingredients. There is our NutroxSun product for skin care from within, that has already a digital application tied to it. The feedback has been very good since customers realize that the app is giving them information of which they have to be aware to keep their skin care: not only sun exposure, but also exposure to air conditioning, pollution and so on -telling customers if, when and how to protect their skin. And if you get a sunburn, the app is telling you to take a different dosage of the product to fight the sunburn, for example.
AF: Do you have an exclusive on this technology you developed?
JJ: This is a technology that we aim to use with parent companies too! Many companies are coming to us with products they have for a market segment and want to digitalize that. Our digital approach is not tied to Monteloeder products, we can develop and license apps for products of other companies. We help them perform pilot studies and then develop the app, before finalizing it.
AF: What kind of products show the most demand for digitalization?
JJ: Digitalization is an approach that goes from cosmetics to food to even pharma; pharma companies have shown a lot of interest. Nutraceuticals are perhaps the segment more interested in digitalization, because they want to stand out in a highly competitive market, and they need to offer something that no one else does. And no one else, today, offers this kind of digitalization. It is something that we have been working on for years, we have products in the market and others to come, we have expertise from the product level to the digital level. Of course, you also do not want an app for each individual product, you want an app that works for all products of a given line, and this is a standardization that we can offer.
AF: You are basically becoming an IT company!
JJ: In a sense, we are. In the nutrition markets there are tons of products coming out every year and the customers are frankly saturated. There is always a new fad, a new superfood, and these fads rise and fall so fast that sometimes one wonders if it makes sense to invest in developing an ingredient with a 6-month lifetime. The advantage of digitalization is that it increases the product lifetime: it tells the customer what the product is doing to your health, in real time, even things that you do not see, and the customer has clinical trials showing that the product works, and showing that the parameters measured by the app are the important ones. More than becoming an IT company, we are becoming a new business concept: Digital Nutraceutical, combining the best of both worlds.
AF: What will digitalization mean for the health nutrition market, in the long run?
JJ: Especially in EU, and in fields such as sport supplementation, the European Commission is becoming aware that there are too many products with poorly or no demonstrated health benefits on the market, and in some cases including banned or unproven ingredients. There follows a crackdown and a large number of products are being recalled. If you have studies with you telling that the product works, you are safe from this danger. People are more and more connected and conscious: where you come out with a product, people will ask “where are the data?” – and if they do not show up, they will just lose interest. Our approach is a way to invest on the fact there are data, and that customers can trust the product will have a measurable effect.