Pizza to ward off Alzheimer’s? Nestlé uses DNA to create personalized diets
The program is being piloted in Japan – but could be extended to other countries – where around 100,000 consumers have paid an annual subscription of $600 for a home kit to collect their DNA and blood samples, which are then analyzed by recognised laboratories to identify susceptibility to common ailments like high cholesterol or diabetes.
The program’s participants are also tasked to send pictures of the food they eat via the Line app that then recommends lifestyle changes and specially formulated supplements.
They can then choose from a range of 17 different recommended supplements, and other products such as vitamin-fortified snacks.
Mission for the 21st century
“Health problems associated with food and nutrition have become a big issue,” said Kozo Takaoka, head of the company’s business in Japan.
“Nestlé must address that on a global basis and make it our mission for the 21st century.”
The program is part of the vision of Nestlé’s former chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, who said nutraceuticals – food-derived ingredients that are processed and packaged as medicine or wellness foods – is the future.
In his 2016 book, Nutrition for a Better Life, he wrote that companies will soon be developing a new suite of products that could prevent diseases from occurring, such as pizzas that can ward off Alzheimer’s disease and vitamin-fortified snacks.
“Using a capsule similar to a Nespresso, people will be able to take individual nutrient cocktails or prepare their food via 3-D printers according to electronically recorded health recommendations,” he wrote.
One of the early adopters of nutrition tailoring was Campbell Soup, which invested $32m in 2016 in San Francisco-based startup Habit, which uses DNA and blood profiles to make diet recommendations, as well as offering nutritional coaching and tailored meal-kits.
Upping the ante
The 152-year-old company has already made dramatic moves in that direction and since 2007, has spent billions in acquiring firms such as Novartis Medical Nutrition, Vitaflo and Prometheus Laboratories. In March, it paid $2.3bn for Canadian dietary supplement maker Atrium Innovations.
Globally, consumers are shunning packaged foods in favor of more natural, healthier options, sending the world’s largest food manufacturers scrambling to reformulate their products.
Nestlé changed the ingredient lists on a whole host of well-known brands, including its California Pizza Kitchen, Hot Pockets and Digiorno’s Pizza. It also sold off its US candy unit this year amid falling demand for sugary treats.