This is part of the company’s efforts in meeting growing consumer interest in self-care and bespoke solutions.
Across Asia-Pacific, personalised nutrition is seeing a boom in South Korea and to an extent, in Japan and Australia.
Speaking to NutraIngredient-Asia, Alicia Ng, vice-president, head of R&D, wider Asia, Haleon, said that personalised nutrition has been an area of interest for the company.
“With the availability of healthcare information, consumers are more educated and savvier in taking care of their own health.
“As a result, they are pro-actively looking for bespoke solutions that are customised for their individual health needs. This is a rising trend, and we are definitely very interested in working in this area,” she said.
As such, the company participated in Slingshot 2023 as a judge and mentor, with two problem statements given to the start-ups.
The first is about how the industry could empower consumers to self-assess their wellbeing, so as to provide more personalised solutions and products to cater to their specific needs.
The second problem statement looks specifically at healthy ageing, especially on how the industry could help seniors maintain an independent lifestyle as they age.
“We are open to start-ups that either offer oral supplements, digital devices, wearables, or any digital-based solutions,” said Ng.
At Slingshot 2023, the co-innovation prize was awarded to QuantActions, a Swiss neuroscience company focusing on cognitive assessment – such as measuring cognitive fitness, sleep quality, and behavioural age – which are areas linked to cognitive health and healthy ageing. The firm was also awarded a cash prize of SGD$10k (US$7.3k).
QuantActions was founded in 2016 as a spin-off from the University of Zurich, with neuroscience, neuroinformatics, and smartphone interaction experts the founders of the company.
Slingshot 2023 is a start-up competition held in collaboration with the Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology (SWITCH) during October 31 to November 2 at Sands Expo and Convention.
Asked the other health areas that Haleon is exploring for personalised nutrition, Ng pointed out gut microbiome, women’s health, immune and joint health – which are areas that fit into the company’s strategic focus.
These are also the areas which could support consumers’ health throughout their different life stage.
Asked where the firm would commercialise these solutions within APAC, Ng said that potential markets included Singapore, China, Japan, South Korea, and Australia.
“I will say that Singapore is a good test market. China is another one, while Japan and South Korea are very advanced with high consumer awareness in this area, as well as Australia."
Not easy to crack the personalised nutrition market
Ng acknowledged that it would not be easy to crack the personalised nutrition market, with companies having to consider the supply chain and user interface.
“This is the beginning of our journey, because it's very difficult to crack [the market] of personalised nutrition, and not many companies have done it well.
“It's never easy, because first of all, you need to have the right interface to communicate with the consumers, so that you know what they need and what are their health concerns.
“Based on that, we will then need to be able to deliver the right kind of products via a GMP factory. Since everyone has a different need, how could the company cater for the different needs? That is the biggest challenge, not just for us, but also for anyone else who is going into this area of business,” she said.
Securing regulatory approvals could be another challenge since the number of personalised nutrition products could be in the thousands or more, she said.
“Up till now, what we can see in the market is mass personalisation or stratified personalisation, meaning you stratify a group or a subset of population with similar health needs. That’s where most of the companies are at now.
“How do you go to the next level? That is the challenge.”
Partnerships – one of the solutions
One of the ways to overcome the above challenges is through partnerships, said Ng.
For instance, firms with well-established distribution and innovative start-ups could partner together to complement each other’s strengths and the company hopes to take a more active role in the ecosystem.
“We are good in our global footprint in terms of our business sales and distribution, but we need people who have a very creative mindset, such as start-ups which are very agile and courageous in doing the new things and we need to have them work with us.”
In Singapore, some of the research institutes that Haleon is working with include A*STAR, National University of Singapore, and Nanyang Technological University.