From mobile gaming to nutrition: South Korea’s Monolabs to launch personalised nutrition services in China via WeChat

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Monolabs is launching its personalised nutrition service ‘I AM’ into China via the messaging mobile app WeChat.
Monolabs is launching its personalised nutrition service ‘I AM’ into China via the messaging mobile app WeChat.

Related tags Monolabs personalised nutrition Technology South korea

South Korea’s Monolabs, which has its roots in mobile gaming, is launching its personalised nutrition service ‘I AM’ into China via the messaging mobile app WeChat, making the country its first overseas personalised nutrition market.

The company, which has been running its personalised nutrition business for three years under the South Korean government’s sandbox pilot​, provides nutrition recommendations​ by accessing consumers’ health needs via an online five-minute questionnaire. 

From its 30-SKUs, the types of nutrition recommended could range from vitamins, minerals, to ingredients catered to beauty-from-within, weight management, eye health etc.

Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, ​Lauren Koo, chief business officer said that the company would be bringing its personalised nutrition services into China from December 2023, making China its first overseas market.

The services would be available through a WeChat mini app, where consumers could access and answer the questionnaire through the app.

Back home in South Korea, consumers would need to access the questionnaire by visiting the ‘I AM’ website or access it via its kiosks set up in pharmacies, hospitals, and retail chain Emart.

Daily reminders to take the supplements are also sent out via the Kakao messaging app to increase users’ compliance. The firm has so far accumulated about 20,000 users in South Korea.

Koo said that using WeChat would help the firm build its brand awareness via the word of mouth, since the app has become one of the most popular social commerce tools in China.

“We want to do this via WeChat because people usually take vitamins recommended by friends, so this is like a community-based e-commerce, which is good for our type of products,”​ she said.

The plan is also to have nutritionists follow up with each user monthly through the app.

In preparation for the launch, the company has set up a local team and entity in Shanghai, as the firm planned to localise its services.

“We work with manufacturers like Kolmar, Novarex, and COSMAX to produce the supplements and run our own smart, automated factory that does the personalised product packaging in South Korea.

“I think we can copy and paste the backend operations in other countries, but the frontend, including the algorithm, questionnaire, website, products, and marketing should be localised,” ​she said.

Singapore to follow

Following China’s launch, Koo said that the firm planned to launch in Singapore as a first step in entering the South East Asia (SEA) market.

The firm participated in the three-day Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology (SWITCH) held in Marina Bay Sands between October 31 and November 2.

“I am in Singapore because we want to explore the market as we think that Singapore is a KOL market – I believe that the other SEA markets will follow trends in Singapore and it is also a good testbed,” ​she said, adding that Singapore could serve as a logistics hub.

From gaming to nutrition

Monolabs began as a mobile gaming firm but branched into and started developing its personalised nutrition business about 4.5 years ago.

Koo said that the leap into the nutrition sector came from her and her co-founder’s personal experience with nutrition.

“We have launched mobile games in 150 countries and that means different time zones, so we sometimes needed to pull an all-nighter. Our health suffered as a result.

“As the co-founder, I and my CEO felt that this wasn’t the right way to go…We met a doctor who is into preventive medicine using vitamins and minerals.

“After taking his recommendations for two months, we didn't feel the chronic fatigue and thought that this should be the way to go, and this should be something that can help people,”​ she said.

The algorithm running behind the ‘I AM’ personalised nutrition service was developed using artificial intelligence that sourced its data from 70,000 research papers.

“We have developed the algorithm from 70,000 thesis and papers using AI, and also had it validated by 20 different doctors who are collaborating with us, as well as 30 pharmacists who are working with us,” ​she said.

The firm also offers other nutraceutical products such as collagen drinks, as well as a telehealth and drug distribution business.

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