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New visions of eating ideologies: Tapping into personalized nutrition

Personalized nutrition is the merging of two major cultural forces: personalization and customization and health and wellness via nutrition.

5 min read


New visions of eating ideologies: Tapping into personalized nutrition


American culture has long grappled with rationalizing eating for pleasure with eating for longevity. How we think about and understand nutrition and our bodies is changing. Part of the major shift we’re seeing in the food and beverage market is the emergence of new, more nuanced health and wellness goals within the everyday American diet and mainstream consumers who are hungry for guidance and direction. Hard-core wellness consumers focus on the specifics of nutrient density and customized diets to maximize energy, performance and digestion.

Nearly every consumer today has some kind of dieting ideology (or system of ideas and ideals) that they currently practice. Whether vegetarian, Paleo, keto, flexitarian or gluten-free, American eating habits today are much more nutritionally intentional than in a former era composed largely of short-term crash diets, silver-bullet products and eating to “look good.”

Contemporary diets are personalized and all about balance, wellness and energy. Wellness and energy are shorthand for feeling lighter, better digestion, reducing inflammation and ultimately feeling good and being happy.

Food has gotten personal — really personal. In an analysis of data from our Hartman Eating Occasions Compass 2018 database, we find that personalized nutrition is a sizeable driver with close to half of eating occasions (49%) driven by personalized nutrition.

The macro forces for personalized nutrition

Personalized nutrition is the merging of two major cultural forces: personalization and customization and health and wellness via nutrition.

1. Personalization and customization. Individualized and hyper-relevant products, experiences and brand connections is becoming an expectation. Experiential culture plus technological progress have equaled an elevated expectation for products, services, marketing and messages that are uniquely tailored to the individual. The desire for personalization in food experiences is showing up in how we evaluate and experiment with dietary approaches, to how to shop, prepare and eat food. The ability to curate experiences and products that demonstrate their individual relevance to consumers is key for greater loyalty. We have realized not only the value of having rich information about things but the immense power of having data about people — highly personalized data about persons’ behaviors, attitudes, interests, relationships and bodies.

Consumers will continue to expect products, services and messages that are individually tailored to personal needs and will willingly and unwittingly offer up personal data to facilitate this. At the same time, privacy and data ownership will continue to be key friction points between consumers and companies. The commoditization of personal data poses unique opportunities and implications.

2. Health and wellness via nutrition. Food remains the dominant route to health and wellness, with the desire for nutrient density defining the aspiration for what “healthy food” means today. Consumers believe that the symbols of fresher, less processed add up to nutrient dense: getting the most from the inherent goodness of food.

What is healthy food?

  • Inherent nutrition is better. The nutritional composition of more complex foods is better aligned to the body’s needs

  • It’s not about a specific health problem. Accumulating positive nutrients all together helps the body work better

  • It’s about more than the nutritional facts panel. Quality of calories, not the number of calories; implicit nutritional attributes, not explicit nutrient claims

  • It’s about what’s NOT there — including GMOs, hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. Foods without chemicals are better for you—even if the nutrition profile is identical

  • It’s about a connection to food. Sourcing that is transparent; production that hasn’t compromised the food

Future-forward considerations

  • People will be doing even more tailoring to their individual needs. How can you help consumers tailor your product or experience to their wellness goals, identities, etc., without contradicting or overly fragmenting your core proposition? Demonstrate that you understand that no one size fits all — and not all the time.

  • Experimentation with ingredients and approaches, inclusions and avoidances will increase. Is a (re)innovation of your product/brand/experience needed? Maybe not, however, know how trending avoidances may impact current portfolio, and how to speak the language of new wellness ingredients.

  • Five key areas (microbiome, stress and sleep, neuro health, aging and beauty) will continue to be a core focus across consumer segments and occasions. How does your current offering engage with these benefits? Determine how you can be conversant with the needs, outcomes, ingredients and practices that support these benefits. 

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As CEO of The Hartman Group, Demeritt drives the vision, strategy, operations and results-oriented culture for the company’s associates as The Hartman Group furthers its offerings of tactical thinking, consumer and market intelligence, cultural competency and innovative intellectual capital to a global marketplace.


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