Academic journal article Innovation: Organization & Management

Innovation in the Food Industry: Personalised Nutrition and Mass Customisation

Academic journal article Innovation: Organization & Management

Innovation in the Food Industry: Personalised Nutrition and Mass Customisation

Article excerpt


Personalised nutrition

Personalised nutrition is a response to differences between individuals, and attempts to balance an individual's diet to their specific individual and situational needs. Nutrition today is not just about balance of macro- and micronutrients: a plethora of 'functional' (bioactive) food components are also known to affect health in ways that extend far beyond the simple supply of nutrients, and they can be modifiers of nutrient uptake and usage, thus modifying the effect of nutritional balance as seen by the body's metabolism. Structural forms of food at the macro-, micro- and nano scale are affected by chewing and stomach processing, and can have effects on the availability of nutrients and bioactives. The kinetics of nutrient uptake are just as important as overall absolute uptakes of nutrients. Personalised nutrition attempts to take this into account, to provide optimal customised nutrition for the individual.

In sophisticated markets today, there is increasing acceptance that nutrition has a profound effect on health and wellness, and as individuals become more aware of their specific nutritional needs, the demand for personalised nutrition is set to increase.

Mass customisation

Mass Customisation, an apparent oxymoron, is defined as 'the ability to satisfy the particular needs and wants of individual customers' (Pine 1998) and relates to systems that have the efficiencies normally associated with mass production but can satisfy personalised requirements. It is an approach to developing individually tailored products from a range of mass-produced precursors that can be assembled and processed in different ways, usually enabled by a computerbased system. The concept of customisation on a mass basis was first raised by Toffler (1980), and the term 'mass customisation' was first coined by Stanley M Davis (1987), although it is often attributed to Joseph Pine, who wrote an early treatise on the subject (Pine 1998).

An important aspect of mass customisation is the involvement of the final customer in the design of the product. Two distinct aspects of design in mass customisation have been described (Boland 2006):

* Mass customisation of sensory performance - for example for appearance (fashion, design, colour), sound (programming on the iPod) or taste and smell of food.

* Mass customisation of functional performance - this can relate to various aspects of performance, for example, speed, power and handling of automobiles, and speed, display size and memory capacity of computers.

Both aspects of mass customisation are important, and true mass-customised products involve the customer in the design of both aspects. In reality, most products focus on one or the other, so that mass-customised fashion articles, or automobiles, tend to focus on the sensory aspect, while other mass-customised products such as computers, focus on functionality.

The power of mass customisation lies in the mathematics of combinations. For N different ingredients, there are 2N possible combinations, thus a range of 20 ingredients will give more than a million combinations. Mass customisation offers the possibility of being able to match the varied nutritional requirements of a wide range of individuals for personalised nutrition.


Health and nutrigenomics

Consumers are increasingly demanding elements of personalised nutrition for health, wellness and fitness. This is the result of increasing awareness of the effects of diet on health (and appearance). The success of diet clinics attests to this, but this is merely a portent of what is to come. The occurrence of (and attention being paid to) current high levels of obesity in affluent societies is spurring interest in diet at all levels of society, from individual to government.

The conjunction of availability of individual genetic data on a scale never before seen - and rapidly growing as a consequence of the human genome mapping and its outcome - with detailed understanding of nutrition - has led to the field of 'nutrigenomics'. …

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