Interview: Deploying Health Data To Deliver Customized Nutrition
Nutrigene CEO Min FitzGerald describes how her company honed the health and wellness experience by personalizing supplements for every customer
Within the area of nutrition and supplements, conflicting advice abounds, and trying to match the right product to your needs can seem impossible. More information is not necessarily better and is often anecdotally based, which can ultimately leave customers without a solution that works for them.
This is why Nutrigene specializes in providing consumers with personalized liquid vitamins tailored to their specific health data. Using only information that is relevant to the individual, Nutrigene will customize exactly what the customer needs—and nothing more—to effectively target specific health needs and goals. For a podcast centered on the healthcare service experience, PSFK founder and editor-in-chief Piers Fawkes spoke to Nutrigene’s CEO Min FitzGerald about how her company helps consumers make sense of their health data and delivers them useful products.
Piers: What are some of the bigger trends taking place within the wellness space, and the market forces that your company is responding to?
Min: For quite some time wellness and health have been merging together, and it’s driven by consumer demands. Information has been readily available on things like WebMD for quite some time, but there are advances across every vertical. Things like FDA-approved wearables and genetics data are becoming consumer products, at price points that people can actually consume and use to find out more information about their bodies.
There’s some discontentment among consumers, because when they go to their doctor or they seek a medical professional, they expect them to know significantly more than what they actually know. Now the consumers have all this information about themselves. The landscape by which information is available is totally different. As a result, people are demanding more personalization.
Now, people are able to manage themselves in a more tailored way. What we’ve been seeing with our customers is that they’re looking to actually take health into their own hands to a big degree. They do still need some guidance, and they can’t necessarily get it from traditional doctors.
How does that translate into the service you provide? Can you explain both the personalization of the service and the product?
What we’ve been seeing a lot of on the market is diagnostics products, like genetics products where you can figure out your ancestry, or maybe some predispositions that you have. Typically what you see is people have a report or information about themselves but don’t know how to use that data to change their life on a day-to-day basis.
My background is in behavioral science. When I was looking at habit formation and behavior adoption, I found that just giving people information isn’t enough to get them to start anything new or change their existing behavior. What we wanted to do was take all of these different types of data sources together and help make a product that people can action right away. Our first product was in the supplements industry, which was somewhat broken. A lot of the products out there were full of filler, and they’re not very potent if they’re not fresh. They sit on shelves for months and degrade over time. We’ve actually made a just-in-time product that’s tailored to each individual. No two shipments are the same for us.
We onboard people. We ask you everything about your body composition, your age, your gender, lifestyle habits and goals that you have, different dietary preferences and such, and then we overlay genetics data on top of that. In the future, we’ll obviously do more, but that’s our core product set right now. Based on that, you get tailored dosages of different liquid supplements that come to your door as a monthly kit. You can get one multivitamin vial or elixir a day, so it’s actually very easy. We’ve had customers say, “I was trying to measure my stuff on my own,” or, “I didn’t really know what to buy or what to take.”
The variance in response has been huge: We have people who say that their energy levels are much better. It actually improves their energy or stabilizes it throughout the afternoon, when it usually dips. Then we have responses like that of one gentleman who is on a perpetual subscription with us because he said that he talked to his doctor, his urologist and a pharmacist to figure out why he couldn’t have enough energy to work full-time, even. He said it’s the first time he’s been able to in years. That’s the range that we hear from our customers to date.
Let’s touch upon personalization and customization. Your products are based on personal data of some sort. Is it DNA? How do people provide that information?
It’s all online. We’re an e-commerce company, and we ship directly to your door, whether that’s your office or home. The first step is your body profile and composition information. You report your information similar to when you go to a doctor’s office—you give them your age and gender. We also take measurements like your weight, height, body fat percentage, level of activity per day, any specific diet that you follow.
Step two involves additional data. Do you have genetics data? Have you done a 23andme? You can upload your raw data onto our platform that we analyze to see whether you have any predispositions for reduced efficiency to metabolizing different nutrients. For example, a lot of people have what’s called an MTHFR mutation. That means that you have an issue methylating. For women trying to conceive, it’s actually quite important: If you have a methylation problem, you can’t take the typical prenatals on the shelf because they don’t contain methylated vitamins. You need the methylated form. We offer the more active versions of the vitamins and we actually tailor the specific versions to your genetics and data.
Are you exploring new ways to interact with the customer, beyond the survey and syncing with 23andme?
Definitely. Some of our customers have requested reminders and things, so we have a texting service that we’ve been playing around with to give you reminders. In the future, we’ll have more of your data in one place where you can actually view it, actively engage with it and see how your dosages are mapping out to your data input. Our goal is not to have a static product. Your body’s always constantly changing, and so your product should change with you. Instead having to go and search for a new brand or product every time something is different, we should just adapt to you. For example, let’s say you’ve now put on a whole bunch of muscle or you’ve lost weight. If you inform us, we actually modify your dosages based on information that you feed back to us.
Listen to Min discuss the health and wellness customer experience on our PurpleList podcast. More insights can be found in the PSFK research paper ‘Redesigning The Healthcare Service Experience’ and other reports.
PSFK’s CXI 2018 conference brings to life key trends in customer experience through talks and activations by pioneers at well known and new companies.
Jared is partner at Pioneer Fund, a a venture fund that pools capital and expertise from 170+ Y Combinator alumni to make diversified investments in select YC companies. He is also founder and CEO of Crowd Med, a company that has raised over $4M in venture capital to date from several top-tier Silicon Valley venture funds to solve difficult medical cases.