By Lisa Du and Maiko Takahashi
Nestle’s unit in Japan expects a fledgling business that sells nutritional drinks and supplements to aging consumers to grow into a nearly $1bn (€865m) behemoth within a decade, as the food giant becomes the latest to employ genetics to market food.
The world’s biggest food company has seen increasing demand for a Japanese subscription programme for nutrition that can cost about $600 a year for capsules and other products.
Consumers send in photos of their plates of food via a smartphone chat application and the programme’s artificial itelligence pushes them to round out their meals with Nestle’s nutrient-boosted green teas and milk products.
They can also complement the advice using DNA tests and blood samples.
Kozo Takaoka, the head of Nestle’s business in Japan, aims for the programme to be another way the world’s largest food company can shift to healthier options, and away from processed foods and sugary treats, the executive said in an interview in Tokyo. Nestle had total sales of €1.55bn last year in Japan.
Speaking from his Tokyo office, Mr Takaoka — who is credited with popularising Nestle-made KitKats into a local premium product — talked about the food giant’s push into nutrition and health.
“Around the world, health problems associated with food and nutrition have become a big issue. Nestle must address that on a global basis and make it our mission for the 21st century,” the executive said. He said that since its launch, the programme has attracted over 100,000 users at a fast pace. “In the future, I’d be happy if the wellness segment made up half of Nestle Japan’s sales, and the other half was food. We’d like to reach €780m sales in 10 years,” he said.
Asked about the potential for expanding the “wellness” business around the world, he said: “We’ve had executives from Nestle’s operations in China, the Swiss headquarters, and elsewhere in Asia come look at our wellness programme and learn from it. The most important thing is figuring out what kind of new problems consumers are facing in specific markets.
“Right now, people around the world aren’t choosing supplements based on the nutrients they’re lacking. So, in that respect, our programme that recommends specific items, based on your food habits, could be a model elsewhere in the world. I don’t know how well-liked green tea is in other countries, so the supplements could come in a different form.” The company may seek joint ventures to expand the programme, he said.