The founder of Nourished, Melissa Snover, started out with customised candy as her first business, but decided she wanted to bring the benefits of 3D printing into a space where it could really make an impact: health products.
This month the company launched what it says is the world’s first personalised 3D-printed nutritional product in the UK, which combines seven ingredients out of a choice of 28.
“There are things like probiotics and then natural super foods like tart cherry, turmeric, ginger extracts, maca powder, ashwaganda and so on. From those 28 different options, the consumer will go on to our website and, if they know what they want, if they're highly educated in nutrition, then they can simply make their own nutrition stack in our labs. So they can select any seven nourishments and produce their own specific blend,” she explains to Food Spark.
“But if they are like most consumers, and they're a little confused about what they need… then they can basically answer a series of questions in a consultation questionnaire. This is linked to a very advanced and complex algorithm, which then weighs all of the nourishments based on their answers and produces the recommendation of the seven nourishments best suited to their existing health conditions, lifestyles and goals.”
It’s taken 14 months to get to launch, with the chewable products created in a facility in Birmingham, which are then shipped out in packaging made from wood pulp, which is biodegradable and home compostable.
Sustainability is a driver of the brand: 98% of the ingredients used come from UK-based wholefood sources, which are encapsulated in the Nourished’s patented vegan gel formula. This gives the nutrients inside higher efficacy than most traditional options in the market, which have long supply chains and are in an isolate tablet form, according to the company. The product is also sugar-free.
Making innovation quicker in manufacturing
For Snover, the price of the product is the game changer when it comes to personalisation. Nourished products cost £39 a month for a 28-day supply and customers can opt out at any time. Alternatively, an annual subscription works out at £30 a month.
“Customisation has always been advantageous and sought after, but it's often been slow and/or expensive, which puts a lot of people off and makes it less widespread,” she says.
“One of the things that I was most frustrated by was the limitations of mainstream manufacturing and, most notably, the fact that you cannot make even limited runs or seasonal products because the factories won't turn on the line for anything less than 25 tonnes as a general standard. And if you were able to get one to turn it on, the price point would be so high for the consumer that it wouldn't represent a value proposition that people would actually buy.”
One of the advantages to 3D manufacturing is that if a study was to find, for example, that prickly pear cactus was a key nutrient to tackle diseases, Snover says they can add it into the mix in a matter of two weeks at a low cost.
But another barrier to making personalisation meaningful for consumers is that much of the focus has been on the novelty, adds Snover, “like putting your name on a Kinder Bueno egg. It's cute, right? It's not really going to change the consumer’s life.”
When people talk about personalisation of food, so far the food industry has only really gone mainstream with meal plans where a lot of the burden still sits with the consumer, claims Snover, or by creating products with “500 different vegetables” that taste horrible but are healthy.
“The piece de resistance comes when you can actually make customised food simple and easy and enjoyable… and 3D printing does have the potential to do this,” she says. “It can play with textures and different components like protein and nutrients and fibres as opposed to fats and simple carbohydrates to create different food products, which the consumer feels excited and happy to eat, but which are made of a different nutrient makeup and actually help enhance their health.”
A 3D future?
So what’s next for the brand? Snover wants to roll out new nutrition snack mixes to target kids and pets, use DNA testing to further customise products and develop 3D printed medicine.
She has her sights set on customisable protein bars too, targeting the crowd that is heavily into fitness.
Her ultimate vision for 3D printing is a scenario that has really only been explored in Hollywood films. She thinks in the future people will have a biosensor in their arm that will shoot information through to a 3D printer in their kitchen.
“Your 3D printer will make you your own cranberry orange muffin with the exact nutrient components – the correct percentages of macros, protein, carbohydrates and fat – that is exactly what your body needs at that moment,” she says.
The 28 ingredients to pick from:
- White Kidney Bean Extract
- Ginger Extract
- Tart Cherry
- Maca Powder
- Beetroot Powder
- Hydrocure Curcumin Extract & Black Pepperine
- Careflow Mango Extract
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vita-Algae D3
- Vitamin E
- K2 Vital Delta
- Milk Thistle Extract
- Folic Acid
- Beta Glucan
- Nourished Greens
- Lactospore Probiotic