Specialist nutrition is an exciting growth area for Mintel Food & Drink clients

July 9, 2019
4 min read

Specialist nutrition is a wide and dynamic sector ranging from foods for special medical purposes (FSMP) to dietary supplements and infant formula.

The entire specialist nutrition sector is broadly categorised by functionality such as sports nutrition products for athletes. However, there is considerable crossover where products that were once specialist have evolved into a mainstream product – such as protein powders, bars and drinks. What links the categories together is an emphasis on scientific and clinical research, with the latter being necessary to meet the stringent global regulatory requirements for foods for special medical purposes.

Yet this concept is not black and white. Regulations on health and function claims vary between countries and products entering into this space could potentially breach regulatory frameworks without realising it through marketing campaigns or on-pack messaging as they expand into new territories. In many ways, the sector is evolving much faster than regulatory frameworks can guide its trajectory. Novel ingredients and product formulations are created seemingly overnight to meet new diet trends and breaking research. This makes it a unique space to work within, driving to create cutting edge products but without walking into a regulatory ‘war-zone’.

So specialist nutrition is exciting but it is challenging and encompasses far more than simply a B to C marketing strategy. Brands operating in this space are often simultaneously trying to build credibility within the healthcare professional sector, whilst also fighting for the consumers’ attention in what is becoming a more crowded space to operate in.

A sector with unique opportunities for innovating how we work with clients

Whilst it may be a tall order for any brand to meet the criteria for working in specialist nutrition, those who embrace the task find themselves in territory like no other. The consumer experience has evolved for this sector to an unrecognisable degree, with peer to peer sales channels, social media and direct to consumer e-commerce changing the landscape for the foreseeable future. The opportunities to speak to consumers about personalising and optimising their nutrient intake through specialist nutrition doesn’t require recommendations from family doctors or pharmacists anymore. It could be as simple as a scroll through a social media network and a ‘swipe to purchase’.

For specialist nutrition brands, the challenge lies in consistency of brand identity with enough unique selling points that are grounded in scientific or medical attributes to retain credibility. Keeping technical terminology meaningful to the end consumer can result in many brands easily losing focus, drowning in buzzwords or missing trends entirely that could help capitalise awareness around their product.

How I can help clients achieve this vision

I’ve recently joined Mintel – it’s a natural progression of 15 years of nutrition experience with considerable focus within FMCG and specialist nutrition brands. My immediate focus is generating new specialist nutrition content within Mintel’s Food & Drink subscription platform for our existing clients by bringing together the latest ingredients and clinical research, updates in intellectual property through our established relationship with Cipher – demonstrating we have expertise in this field ready to offer. Mintel GNPD has also significantly increased in its coverage of specialist nutrition from early last year. One aspect of my role is that I still practise as a clinician in London and continue to treat patients outside of my work at Mintel – this positions my understanding of this sector as practical and current, giving insights that our clients may not have. My plan is to evolve our specialist nutrition offering to create something truly unique that only Mintel has the expertise to provide.

If you’re a Mintel Food & Drink client and would like to find out more about how I can help your company, then please contact me on rmiller@mintel.com

During his time as a clinician, Rick started collaborating with the FMCG and sports supplementation sector as a medical liaison consultant working with brands such as Mondelez, Danone and California Almonds – supporting their new product development, regulatory affairs and scientific communication.

Rick Miller
Rick Miller

Rick is responsible for developing thought leadership content in specialised nutrition for Mintel Food & Drink clients by providing actionable insights on trending topics – such as infant and maternal nutrition and foods for special diets.

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