Generative AI (Gen AI) is quickly becoming an imperative for businesses, offering ways to increase productivity, reduce costs, mitigate risks and increase consumer engagement. While certain industries (e.g., finance, entertainment) have quickly adopted and invested in Gen AI tools for daily business functions, the vitamin, mineral and supplement (VMS) industry is currently in the nascent phase of adoption. The majority of VMS companies have not yet publicly announced any Gen AI capabilities or affiliations, though many are undoubtedly experimenting on a small scale. Especially given the recent emergence of ChatGPT and other Gen AI tools, VMS companies have a burgeoning opportunity to implement these new solutions for novel product and solution development, increased productivity and efficiency, and enhanced customer service and experience.
Early adopters of artificial intelligence (AI) and Gen AI among VMS companies are already benefiting in the areas of customer experience and formulation research (see Figure 1). There is still a wide range of potential use cases where AI and Gen AI can have a major impact, including the following:
Ingredient companies can leverage AI for identification and discovery of natural bioactives for supplement applications or product formulation support
Integrated manufacturers and co-manufacturers could utilize AI to create a dynamic supply chain built around parameters (availability/lead time, cost, quality, label claims requirements, etc.), capitalize on advanced scenario planning, and enable sales teams to price and quote more quickly and efficiently
Brands can employ Gen AI solutions for marketing and sales functions, such as creating personalized product recommendations based on customer-provided data, developing intelligent demand forecasting, exploiting predictive analysis of ad performance and smart ad recommendations, and rapidly creating modular marketing content
Retailers and direct sellers can improve consumer engagement by leveraging Gen AI through conversational product search, personalized customer support chatbots and personalized product return offers
Currently, few areas of the VMS value chain are being touched by Gen AI. A handful of companies such as Nestle’s Persona business, Thorne Health Tech and Viome are employing it for consumer engagement (e.g., via personalized nutrition platforms), while some emerging companies such as Brightseed and Nuritas are using it largely to drive innovative R&D and formulation capabilities. However, many of the leading nutritional supplement brands have not made any public mention or announcement regarding the use of AI technology in a material manner.
Many VMS companies that have made strides with Gen AI have succeeded by partnering with other tech-focused brands/platforms; Pharmavite, manufacturer of Nature Made vitamins, is one such example. Pharmavite has partnered with a variety of smaller players to bring innovation to the forefront of its initiatives in the VMS market. In 2019, it partnered with technology-driven VMS brand Nuritas to utilize AI and DNA analysis in the formulation of new bioactive peptides that can be used for preventive consumer care. Similarly, in 2020, Pharmavite partnered with AI developer Brightseed to uncover active natural compounds to be used for future product innovations.
Partnering with AI-focused or technologically advanced companies capable of Gen AI functionality gives VMS companies a quick foot in the door to technological expertise and increased flexibility (e.g., nonfoundational capabilities). While there are other routes to entrance in Gen AI within VMS (e.g., buy vs. build), partnership offers the quickest deployment of talent without the significant upfront investment of acquisition or internal development or the required expertise to maintain the capabilities in-house. When discerning which partners to team up with, VMS companies should ask the following key questions:
What level of customization/tailoring can the organization offer?
Can the organization accommodate scale needs?
Does the organization provide maintenance and ongoing support?
Gen AI is an increasingly popular tool with potential for substantial positive implications for businesses. Specifically, the VMS industry has an opportunity to capitalize on this growth lever, as few VMS companies today have fully dived into the AI possibilities. Gen AI has the power to increase visibility into orchestration, enhance ability to use/connect data and insights, distribute ownership and awareness of generative AI strategy and tools, reduce territorialism, and foster a stronger collaborative spirit among stakeholders.
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