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Now it’s personal

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We are all unique. Our health is determined by our inherited genetic differences combined with our lifestyles and other environmental factors. However, the traditional blockbuster approach to drug development assumes that all patients with a particular condition respond similarly to a given drug. All patients with the same condition receive the same first line treatment even though it may be only 30% to 60% effective.

But all that is changing. By combining and analysing information from different sources, patterns can be identified. Together this information can help to determine our individual risk of developing disease, detect illness earlier, provide an accurate diagnosis, and determine the most effective interventions to help improve our health, be they medicines, lifestyle choices, or even simple changes in diet.

New possibilities are now emerging as we bring together novel approaches, such as whole genome sequencing, data and informatics, and wearable technology. It is the interconnections between these innovations that make it possible to move to truly personalised care.

So as things get more personal what might be the impact on traditional R&D, manufacturing and business models? To what extent will the bedrock of standardisation and mass scale need to be broken to adapt to more individual and local needs, methods of distribution and systems of recycling.

What is personalisation technology?

Companies such as 23andMe first started using genetic information to help people understand their ancestry and family geographical origins and more recently, DNA genomic profiling for personalised diet and exercise regimes offered by companies such as DNAFit has been at the forefront of a wider consumer interest in the human genome.

More recently there has been an explosion in customised supplementation and nutrition with sophisticated brands such as Persona, Vive and Vitl, creating Direct to Consumer business models that are redefining ideas around product and packaging.

At the heart of each of these brands is the concept of individualised care. Products, and in some cases ingredients, are combined to provide optimum nutritional support to each individual consumer, based on a predetermined need or specific assessment.

Why personalise packaging?

In this context, packaging changes its role and appearance to become a vehicle to further support and enhance the overall brand experience. Rather than having to fight for shelf stand out and aid range and product understanding, this new generation packaging can address its consumers on first name terms.

What is more, without the need to stand out on shelf, primary product packaging can also become smaller and more space efficient. Shipping less fresh air can improve a brand’s carbon footprint.

Direct to Consumer distribution models also allow secondary packaging to become personalised shipper packaging, delivered straight to your letterbox. This model dispenses with wholesale/retail distribution, listing fees, retailer margins, shelf replenishment and merchandising costs.

How direct to consumer brands are making e-commerce work

Other brands go further still, from merely saving costs, to helping save the planet.

Direct to Consumer distribution models allow brand owners to create a more holistic business model that moves away from the ‘take, make, dispose’ model of production.

Much of this thinking is derived from the principles of the circular economy, which seeks to design out waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use and regenerate natural systems.

The probiotics brand Seed provides an interesting insight into some of these principles in action. They claim their business is ‘pioneering the inquiry, application and communication of microbiome science to improve human and planetary health.’

So as well as producing a high quality symbiotic, (a combination of prebiotics and probiotics), Seed have developed a business model that puts sustainability at the heart of the brand purpose and experience.

The entire packaging and distribution model is designed to elevate the consumer experience to allow you to feel good about being kinder to the planet.

When you first sign up to the brand you are sent a Welcome Kit consisting of a card outer made from 100% Forest Steward Councilship (FSC) certified paper and board sourced from responsibly managed forests.

Inside, the tray that contains the product packaging is 100% compostable USDA Certified Biobased Mycelium. Made from the root structure of mushrooms, this will decompose naturally in soil within 30 days.

The main product packaging is a reusable glass jar and each month consumers are sent a product refill in a bio-based 100% compostable protective pouch, wrapped in a biodegradable, edible and water soluble corn foam protective layer that requires 70% less energy to produce than traditional petroleum based foam products.

The subscription model also allows for improved visibility of demand and so supports a better lean manufacturing process with significant reduction in inventory and wastage, another key performance indicator of sustainable business practices. 

A visionary brand that has recognised and embraced the opportunities of what we are calling The Fourth Age of packaging by focusing on the increasingly important consumer touchstone of personalisation coupled with environmental responsibility.


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