Gut health is the biggest growth area for US personalised nutrition brands

28 Jul 2022

Gut health will be a key growth area for personalised nutrition brands in the US throughout 2023, fuelled by the development of more user-friendly microbiome testing kits and the importance of gut health for US consumers, according to the Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ).

Far from being a niche category, personalised nutrition in the US is moving firmly out of the early adopters' phase to enjoy mainstream appeal, according to a recent market report by Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ), which projects that the category will break the $1 billion barrier in 2024.

Gut health is the biggest growth area for US personalised nutrition brands
Gut health is top US health concern. Image: © AdobeStock/Monstar Studio

“This isn’t just people nursing chronic conditions or optimization obsessives counting steps and calories in between triathlon training sessions; this looks like a market that’s closer to the mainstream than it has ever been,” write NBJ analysts in the report, which covers market sizing, sales, and growth of supplement & testing revenue from personalized nutrition for the 2018 to 2025 period.

Microbiome testing will enjoy 50.5% growth in 2023

Data gathered by NBJ reveals that personalised nutrition offerings are still dominated by surveys and questionnaires, with such methods accounting for almost 82% of US sales of personalised nutrition products in 2021. Microbiome testing, in comparison, accounted for just 8.1% (equivalent to $41 million in sales), followed by biomarker testing at 5.7% and genetic testing at 4.6%.

Crucially, however, it is these ‘next-generation’ testing methods (that can deliver more accurate personalisation by analysing an individual’s microbiome, genes or biomarkers) that are set to enjoy the highest growth in the coming years. Microbiome testing leads the way, with NBJ predicting it will grow by 50.5% in 2023 compared to 26.3% for survey-based nutrition. As NBJ analysts bullishly say, “the growth is where the real promise lies”.

Microbiome motivation: Gut health is top US health concern

Microbiome testing is currently the most popular of the advanced testing methods – despite the fact that the testing methods are invasive and unpleasant, requiring consumers to take swab samples of their faecal matter and send the samples to laboratories for analysis.

This could be due to the importance of gastrointestinal health for millions of US consumers. Over one-quarter (25.7%) of respondents surveyed by NBJ in 2021 said it was their top health concern, up from 22.7% in 2017.

“The microbiome [...] is also where personal motivations drive sales perhaps more urgently than in any corner of the supplement market, and people with gut distress may be more motivated than anyone in the personalized nutrition universe,” write the authors of the report.

Improved, non-invasive testing methods

As testing methods evolve and become less invasive, consumers who are interested in gut health but were previously put-off by the undeniable ‘yuck factor’ of microbiome sampling, could come on board.

Developing more user-friendly processes and products is therefore a key area for improvement, and one where companies are already delivering. South Carolina-headquartered Thorne Healthtech, for instance, is working on a wipe that it describes as a game changer.

“[...] the market could be transformed by making consumers more comfortable with the testing itself,” reads the NBJ report.

Virtuous circle: Regular testing boosts gut health understanding

Companies’ ability to offer optimised personalised products for gut health is also improving thanks to researchers’ growing understanding of the gut microbiome. They are also bolstered by the fact that many microbiome programmes carry out regular sampling, accruing a mass of data in the process that they can leverage to produce better products.

“The microbiome has long been the most complicated of challenges for nutritional products—a system both influencing and influenced by every system in the body—but it could be that personalized nutrition builds the science base to bring the gut health category closer to fulfilling its full promise,” conclude NBJ analysts.

Cost is still a barrier for one-third of respondents

However, cost is the main barrier for many US consumers. When asked the reason for not currently using a personalised nutrition service to receive dietary supplements, 33% of respondents said the service is too expensive – a “sobering” fact for industry players, according to NBJ analysts. (However, the analysts note there may be some overlap with other reasons.)

Nevertheless, a look at some of the main personalised nutrition players targeting gut health via advanced testing methods reveals variation in pricing. Microbiome company DayTwo creates personalised meal plans based on analysis of an individual’s microbiome and its plan is priced between $499 and $515.

Gut health specialist Sun Genomics creates a customised prebiotic and probiotic formula for consumers based on microbiome analysis, pricing its service at between $95 and $110, while Thriva offers the cheapest programme, charging between $25 and $40 for a monthly subscription.

In any case, once they do come on board, personalised nutrition users are attentive to the results they receive. Nutrition Business Journal polled over 1,000 consumers who were either current or lapsed users of personalised nutrition programmes, and found that a majority had either made a change to their diet or nutrition after receiving the results: one-third (33%) said they started taking dietary supplements and one-third (33%) said they altered their diet.

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