South Korea’s personalised nutrition sandbox: COSMAX to open fifth store and predicts further consumer momentum

By Tingmin Koe contact

- Last updated on GMT

A user listening to recommendations for her personalised nutrition needs. ©COSMAX NBT
A user listening to recommendations for her personalised nutrition needs. ©COSMAX NBT

Related tags: South korea, personalised nutrition, COSMAX

COSMAX NBT is opening its fifth and final personalised nutrition store in October under the South Korean government’s personalised nutrition sandbox project, with the firm believing that the concept is rapidly gaining traction with consumers.

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) announced the two-year sandbox project last July, where seven companies are involved. They are Pulmuone Health & Living, Amorepacific, Amway Korea, COSMAX NBT, Herbalife Korea, Bigsome, and Mono Labs. 

Each of the participating company is allowed to operate a certain number of stores and 152 stores are expected to be in operation by the end of this project.   

In the stores, only pharmacists and nutritionists can conduct nutrition consultation sand make product recommendations. The nutraceuticals prescribed can only come in the form of tablet, capsule, pill, flake, bar, and jelly.

Aside from protecting consumers from over-dosing on nutraceuticals, the project will also contribute to the creation of new jobs, the MFDS said.

One of the companies involved, COSMAX NBT, has been approved to operate five stores in the metropolitan area.

It currently runs four stores with its business partners and expects to open its fifth store in October.

Our company operated a total of five stores – two with Vitamics and three with Onnuri pharmacies until last July. However, we stopped operating one of the stores in Onnuri pharmacies, as it was slow in sales.

“Our upcoming store is scheduled to open in October. We cannot name the partnering store yet,”​ Jae Hwan Kim, manager at COSMAX NBT told NutraIngredients-Asia.

COSMAX Vitamics store exterior
Exterior of COSMAX NBT's personalised nutrition store opened with Vitamics

Users of the COSMAX NBT’s personalised nutrition service will first go through an online health survey consisting of over 30 questions. They will then visit one of its stores or go on a video call for recommendations on their personalised nutrition needs.

The supplements will then be packed by COSMAX NBT and shipped to the users’ house within one to two days. At this moment, the company supplies 10 different types of supplements, including multivitamins and minerals, omega-3, lutein, co-enzyme Q10, milk thistle, theanine, probiotics, and products for women health and prostate health.

cosmax personalised nutrition 1
Examples of supplements offered by COSMAX NBT's personalised nutrition service

Kim pointed out that the most important part in running a personalised nutrition business was continuous data gathering and updating of the algorithm.

The most important thing is to continuously gather data concerning the health information of customers and updating the information.

“It is also necessary to track the health status of the customers. When we are able to recommend a reliable customised nutrition pack, our customer will depend more on our service.”

The company believes that the personalised nutrition industry in South Korea will follow the development trajectory of the US.

Similar to the US market, personalised nutrition is expected to have a high marketability and it is one of crucial market trends in dietary supplement area. However, there are still challenges, such as a lack of proper definition for ‘personalised nutrition’,”​ Kim said.

In the US, personalised nutrition has been gaining the attention of big industry players, with firms such as Persona being snapped up by Nestle. ​ 

Currently, COSMAX NBT is in the midst of conducting a survey to find out consumers’ level of satisfaction towards its personalised nutrition service.

The survey includes questions on the professionalism of the diagnosis, algorithm used during health examination and satisfaction towards the personalised nutrition packs.

Involving 80 customers, the survey assesses consumers’ views of the diagnosis, level of satisfaction towards the product packaging and information of the product, as well as the ease of re-ordering the products.

Others’ progress

The other six companies are also in the process of implementing their personalised nutrition business.

Bigsome, a health functional food start-up, is allowed to open the biggest number of stores in this sandbox project via its pharmacy partners – 30 in the first year and 70 in the second year of the sandbox project. The company has been developing health functional foods for domestic pharmaceutical firms.

It is working with pharmacy Kick the Hurdle (킥더허들), which has both online and offline operations, in launching a personalised nutrition brand known as Cure Fit (큐어핏).

Monolabs is also able to run six stores on its own and 20 more stores with pharmacy partners, while the rest could only operate five to six stores each.

Cosmetics and skincare conglomerate Amorepacific, on the other hand, told us it has opened a store known as 'Amore Store Gwanggyo' in the city of Suwon during mid-October last year.

The store also showcases 40 brands and 2,000 products spanning across nutraceuticals, skincare, and cosmetics. Amorepacific is allowed to operate six personalised nutrition stores.

Amway Korea started its “My Pack by Nutrilite” personalised nutrition service last December, where consumers are able to pick up the products at the Amway Brand Center Bundang. The company is able to operate a total of five personalised nutrition stores, similar as Pulmuone and Herbalife.

Pulmuone opened its first store last July at Bangi-dong, south east of Seoul.

As for Herbalife, its independent distributors are participating in the sandbox project via their nutrition clubs.

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