Nutrition firms nurturing new technology, survey finds

The survey, commisioned by organisers of the Vitafoods event, revealed an openness to embrace new technology in pushing their business forward. ©iStock/ Ali Kerem Yücel

An agile approach to digital innovation is a mind-set increasingly being adopted by nutritional companies looking to gain an advantage in a competitive market.

According to a survey commissioned by the organisers of Vitafoods Europe, a third (32%) of the 192 respondents had implemented or were planning to implement new product testing technologies.

Almost a quarter (23%) were introducing smart packaging whilst a fifth (21%) were open to new tracing technologies such as QR codes on packaging.

A further 17% said they had created or were making plans to introduce smartphone apps to their offerings.

“New technology is revolutionising the way nutrition companies do business,” said Chris Lee, managing director, Global Health and Nutrition Network, Europe at Informa Exhibitions.

“Digital technology has created increasingly sophisticated ways for companies to build relationships with consumers.  Meanwhile, companies are developing new ways of testing, tracing, and packaging their products.”

Technology such as 3D printing (6%) and geolocation technology (2%) were mentioned by a handful of companies.  Only 36% said they were not using any of the technologies on the list. 

Smartphone apps a smart choice

Croatian start-up VitaStiq have tapped into the trend for monitoring health via mobile technology with the Vitastiq PRO.

The hardware and software combination provides a personalised way of checking vitamin and mineral status through a smartphone.

The concept also offers and suggests a diet and supplement (vitamin/mineral) intake based on the user's results.

Presented at Vitafoods next month, the device uses a smartphone to track the body’s needs for 26 different vitamins, minerals and other nutrients including magnesium, vitamin B1, selenium and chromium

“Technology like ours is bringing supplements closer to the users,” explained Vitastiq PRO’s creator Dean Vranić.

“They’re getting easier access to information related to their bodies, so the next thing they do is find out a bit more, and then buy products. 

“There’s huge potential.  It’s a great way for manufacturers to communicate with people at the particular moment they need you. Smart products are the standard these days.  In the future, if you want to sell something, it’s going to have to be smart.”

R&D demands

The survey also questioned subjects on budgets allocated for R&D. Here almost half (47%) of those surveyed stated their intentions to increase spending for this year.

Only 6% said they would spend less.  One in four (24%) said their companies would spend 25% or more of their sales on R&D projects, with one in ten (10%) saying they would spend 50% or more.

As well as R&D costs, companies have often cited innovation at ingredient level as costly and time-consuming with no guarantees of consumer recognition to the added value that is reflected in its price.

Companies have also cited the regulatory landscape as tricky to negotiate when it comes to validating health claims in the face of European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) standards.

As a result, the rise in popularity of such technologies as delivery formats and packaging could well be in response to the difficulty in launching new ingredients onto the market.

Companies showcasing products at Vitafoods include Biofarma Spa, a contract packaging developer specifically for dietary supplements.

Its smart packaging solution enables two powders to be contained in one twin stick pack. This enables an ease of use that enables both sections to be opened in one motion.

Other exhibitors include Hoffmann, a Swiss manufacturer of pocket packaging for the confectionery and food industries.

Its 3D Coating tin with freshness seal contains a structured layer that along with an internal seal keeps the product fresh and tamper proof.

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