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Digital and Personalized Nutrition innovation: Will nutrition experts play a role?

woman giving a talk on stage

As a dietitian and business consultant in the personalised nutrition industry for the last 6 years, I have witnessed a rapidly growing demand for expert knowledge. From speaking at events, to creating new products and managing projects, there has certainly not been a lack of opportunities for nutritionists and dietitians to position themselves. Throughout this time I have gained deep insights in the global shift towards a data-driven and prevention-oriented healthcare system. And I observed that the discussion is not dominated by nutrition experts. This alarmed me: What will be our role in this? What would be the skills, attitudes and behaviour necessary to carve out a career and evolve as a nutritionist in a digital era?

In the industry we have been talking about personalized nutrition for the past decade. Solutions did not make it to the market, because the technology was not ripe. Now, technology is ripe and the topic Personalized Nutrition is hot, start-ups are launching their personalized nutrition products – it includes personalized supplements based on digital anamnesis, at-home biomarker testing devices and genetic testing services. The fact that personalized nutrition will go mainstream has important implications to us, nutrition scientists, dietitians or healthcare professionals.

This became obvious when I attended the Personalized nutrition & Innovation summit 2018 in San Francisco: At this event there was a dire lack of presence (and mention) of nutrition and health experts. In my opinion it is the responsibility of both, healthcare professionals and companies, to reach out to create new products that are based on solid science that consumers want, need and will actually use. So how do we as nutrition experts, raise the bar and get ahead of the game? The answer potentially lies in how we train students and also how well we, the expert community, begin applying a lifelong learning attitude.

However, before this we have to adapt new ways of behaving and thinking when it comes to digitization of nutrition. The WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM predicts that by 2030 there will be a huge demand for higher cognitive skills such as creativity, critical thinking and decision-making across the healthcare industry. New technologies such as machine learning, AI, blockchain, big data and chatbots will radically change how we deliver nutritional services in the next decade for which we will need upskilling.

The tech-enabled personalized nutrition is a rapidly emerging trend and universities around the globe have not included a stand-alone module to prepare students to work in this industry. Even the job market is rapidly changing to being more contractual and remote-based, with new career opportunities opening up which means that new ways of working and thinking are critical in career development. Nutrition and dietetics educators and lecturers therefore are faced with new challenges to prepare students and the expert community to work in a digital era which will require reviewing current nutrition curricula to include entrepreneurship, innovation and creative thinking.

But where to start? I have been asked hundreds of times by both students and educators on how to understand the personalized nutrition industry and what skills are required to prepare for a new way of thinking and working. This request and my experience in the personalized nutrition industry inspired me to create Nutratech - Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Nutrition, a 5-day training starting in April 2019. Nutratech is the further development of an intensive module I created as part of my PhD study. The module was delivered in January 2018 at St Mary’s University in London to Masters level Nutrition and Genetics students with very positive reviews of which the results were recently published (Complete Nutrition Magazine; 18 (5): 58-60).

Nutratech is specifically aimed at university educators and lecturers who are currently in the process of reviewing their curriculum, or are considering involving the university business department to deliver a business module.

From what I have seen in the past years, we have to get up to speed with the technology evolving around nutrition. Nutratech delivers the latest information on the personalized nutrition industry and technologies from experts and guest lecturers. It combines action learning with cultural immersion in a traditional Portuguese sea-side town. It also focuses on elements which are crucial for an entrepreneurial programme aimed specifically at women from a STEM* background. Let's get back the lead in nutrition entrepreneurship and innovation - nutrition is our passion.

*STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

Mariette Abrahams MBA RD PhD cand is a Nutrition Business Consultant, Public Speaker and Researcher. To register for the event, please visit this website:


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