Nutrition Asia Video Series

From mass customisation to individualisation: How automation, supply chain management, 3D printing can drive personalised nutrition forward

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags personalised nutrition AI Technology Artificial intelligence Machine learning Craft Health Monolabs South korea

Personalised nutrition could progress from mass customisation to full personalisation as companies leverage on factory automation, supply chain management, and 3D printing to increase the efficiency of providing customised products.

South Korea’s Monolabs which provides personalised nutrition solutions under the brand “I  AM” is one example that uses some of the above methods to offer customised products to their over 20,000 users.

With a background in information technology (IT) and mobile game development, the company branched into the personalised nutrition business three years ago. The company is also part of the South Korean government's personalised nutrition sandbox project​ introduced in year 2020. 

Through an online health quiz, the company collects and analyses users’ health needs and they then provide customised recommendations from their existing 30 product SKUs.

These products include vitamins, minerals, and ingredients for weight management, skin health, and sleep support. 

Lauren Koo, chief business officer at Monolabs told NutraIngredients-Asia ​in this episode of Nutrition Asia that having a strong IT system was crucial for its backend operations to run smoothly and efficiently.

The company works with contract manufacturers such as Kolmar and COSMAX to produce the nutrition supplements but uses its own factory for packing the products customised for each user.

Factory automation is crucial in scaling up the business, said Koo, who pointed out that the firm’s factory was 90 per cent automated, with only two employees working in the factory, working on thousands of boxes each day.

“There could be challenges if you are a traditional company and if you do not have a strong IT team...This is because if you do not automate [your factory operations], it will be really hard to scale up.

"Our factory is 90 per cent automated, with only two people working in the factory on thousands of boxes. Doing so could help prevent human error, because customisation is quite complicated in the backend,” ​she told us at the recent Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology (SWITCH) event.

South Korea's Ministry of Food and Drug Safety has in fact identified personalised nutrition as a sector for new growth and is working with selected research institutions in establishing industry guidelines.​ 

On the other hand, most personalised nutrition solutions available today have yet to provide 100 per cent full personalisation.

More often than not, consumers are grouped into a certain category based on their health screening results, which could be based on a saliva or stool test, and are then given a product designed for the group that they belong to.

In this case, Singapore’s 3D-printing firm Craft Health, which provides solutions for both pharmaceutical and nutraceutical firms, believes that 3D printing could be useful in offering personalised solutions.

Dr Goh Wei Jiang, co-founder and CEO at Crafthealth told us that this would be a discovery process, where companies could start with mass customisation and eventually expand their offerings to allow more individualised solutions once they understand consumers’ needs better.

“I would think that one of the biggest challenges in the personalised nutrition industry, would be the logistics of it. To achieve true personalisation, it means that you need to maintain a large inventory of different items.

“What we are trying to do is that we start with what we call mass customisation. We segment consumers into a few groups and in that way, we will know which are the products that will move well.

“It is a discovery process for us and also with the companies that we work with, because they also need to understand if the market is able to accommodate the breadth of these offerings. Once you know which are the products that will move well, then you can bring in more SKUs and move more towards personalised nutrition,” ​he said. 

The company is already working with both local firms and international players in providing personalised solutions in the nutraceutical space, some of which will be launched next year. 

Watch the video to find out more.

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