3 start-ups pushing personalisation using tech

John Lewis Partnership has identified three concepts that could help retailers with individualised nutrition and health.

20 July 2018

Incubator programmes are all the rage as companies race to find the next big thing through innovative start-ups.

One of these is John Lewis Partnership’s JLAB, which has been running for the last five years. The retail tech innovation programme recently solicited submissions for ways to eliminate plastic waste in John Lewis and Waitrose.

Both subsidiaries currently depend on plastics to make products, increase shelf life and protect items as they are moved from source to customer. However, as a member of the UK Plastics Pact, John Lewis Partnership wants to ensure 100% of its packaging is reusable or recyclable.

The announcement of JLAB’s 2018 challenge came as the incubator chose the finalists for its previous call for healthy lifestyle pitches, with three UK personalised nutrition firms shortlisted.

Waitrose has already been exploring personalisation with DNA testing as well as health assistants in-store, so how does this trio of start-ups differ? Food Spark takes a closer look.

1. OME Health

This company creates personalised health plans based on 2,000 health markers, such as a person’s gut microbiome, genetics, blood and other health data like body composition and blood pressure.

The analysed health markers are used by the company’s proprietary AI-driven and expert-curated recommendation engine to create a plan.

Karolis Rosickas, founder and CEO of OME Health, said retailers want to be able to differentiate their offerings to edge ahead of competitors.

He can see why Waitrose is interested in exploring value-added services, including its recent partnership with private health care company Bupa, which should see health checks launched in stores across its estate.

The vision for OME Health is to provide a service to users who want further personalised advice to achieve individual lifestyle goals, as well as improving health markers like bacterial diversity, blood lipids, resting heart rate and sleep.

OME Health currently offers a 12-week health plan, but will likely release more focused journeys for people, like nutrition for healthy ageing or eating healthy and sustainably.

“There is plenty of general nutrition advice – NHS Choices, WHO etc. It is clear that this generic nutrition advice does not work by just looking at growing obesity [and] type 2 diabetes rates in the developed world,” he said.

Instead, the answer might be advice tailored to people’s unique circumstances.

2. Best in Bag

An app that allows consumers to set up a personalised profile and then does all the nutritional calculations for them.

Co-founder Eduard Erwee is a type one diabetic and the project was born out of his frustration and lack of understanding of current food labelling and the inability to find alternatives.

“Ambiguity in current food labelling means that the consumer cannot always discern at first glance all key nutritional information. Personalising the nutritional information regardless of current food labelling trends will support individuals to make informed choices regarding food products,” he said.

The app has also been shortlisted for an NHS grant to help patients self-manage their medical conditions via diet.

“Our algorithm, which created the recommendations, currently works off a predefined set of profiles based on NHS research. With the maturing of solutions, which include DNA mapping and profiling of gut bacteria, it opens up a level of personalisation that has never been possible before. It is the key to personalised food recommendations and the future of the industry,” said Erwee.

3. Kafoodle

A food tech business that combines personalised meal planning with dietician dashboards to monitor nutritional needs.

Previously, Kafoodle had a heavy focus on the safety of foods and allergens, but it has since evolved, adopting the mantra that one diet does not fit all.

Its software allows customers to search a retailer’s offerings based on their own personal requirements.

With online food sales set to hit £15bn by 2020, the ever-increasing use of technology opens up some exciting avenues for generating income, its website pitches.

It is also looking at the UK free-from market – which will be worth £673m by 2020 – as 27% of Brits say they avoid certain ingredients as part of a healthy lifestyle, according to the company.

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