Aug 30 2023

Personalized Ingredients: Shaping the Future of Health

The rapid advancement of technology in the food sector has opened new possibilities, including personalized ingredients

Personalized ingredients refer to a variety of food components, both natural and modified, that serve specific functional purposes for individuals or targeted groups of people. These ingredients are developed to address diverse needs such as food allergies, hormonal imbalances, specific taste preferences, or individuals seeking to improve specific aspects of their health.

Eating habits are extremely important for human health. However, nutrition is also heavily affected by genetics and lifestyle patterns.

The recent development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies has increased the level of accuracy and detail in data analysis to the point that it is being used individually. AI algorithms can predict outcomes based on patterns and inputted data. In the case of nutrition, our eating habits, or patterns, along with extra information from our genetic backgrounds and daily life activities can be analyzed with AI models to predict medical conditions and be corrected in advance through enhanced nutrition habits and tailored made food. Due to the biological diversity that each person has, the rise of personalized ingredients thanks to the development of food technologies will be revolutionary. For instance, researchers from Tecnun, University of Navarra, in San Sebastian, Spain, have developed an algorithm that generates a personalized ranking of the healthiest foods for individuals based on their intestinal microbiota and metagenomic data.

A trend commonly known as “Food as Medicine”, highlights the positive consequences that a healthy and sustainable diet can have in human health. It embraces the use of technologies such as precision fermentation or cellular agriculture, that allow better nutritional profiles through the transformation and modification of food ingredients. The “medicine” term arises from the fact that these personalized ingredients are also being developed for food-allergen or food-processing conditions, such as gluten allergies and diabetes, which are more prevalent in both the Spanish and global population.  

Personalized ingredients alleviating restrictions

In Spain, 1% of the population is diagnosed with Celiac Disease, or severe gluten allergies. Nonetheless, studies shows that 80% (1) of children are misdiagnosed. Raising the concern that a lot of people could be undiagnosed worldwide and therefore would benefit from incorporating  gluten-free alternatives into their daily meals. One Spanish start-up that has taken motivation to help this percentage of the population is Bread Free.

This pioneering Navarrese company integrates the capabilities of AI and biotechnology to develop a remarkable solution: Gluten-Free wheat flour. This groundbreaking ingredient can be utilized to prepare various bread, cookie, and wheat-based dishes without changing the texture or flavour of the product, serving as a prime illustration of how personalized ingredients can effectively address health challenges. By leveraging technology to transform ingredients like wheat, it also presents opportunities for scalability and cost-efficiency for bakery and restaurant owners. This allows them to expand their product offerings without the need for alternative ingredients that might be costlier or harder to source in the market.

Another disruptive Spanish company addressing allergies and dietary restrictions is WEVO, offering a 100% plant-based alternative to traditional eggs. Given that eggs are the leading cause of food allergies in children (2), and with a growing awareness of sustainability and a desire to embrace a more plant-based diet, innovations like WEVO are highly valued in today's market.

Personalized microbiome aid: probiotics


Personalized ingredients have found another valuable application in promoting and maintaining intestinal health. Our gut flora, which plays a crucial role in nutrient absorption, immune regulation, and internal processes, deserves utmost attention when it comes to our dietary well-being. The human microbiome consists of various bacterial species that help maintain digestive balance. Traditionally, yogurt and other lactobacilli-rich products have been relied upon for intestinal health. However, recent trends have fueled a surge in demand for probiotic products. Thanks to technological advancements, probiotics can now be distinguished from conventional lactobacilli yogurts, offering convenient consumption options like pill encapsulations or lactose-free mixes. This innovation has become a prominent feature in the personalized ingredient market.

In Spain, Nucaps emerges as the foremost pioneering startup revolutionizing the field of microbiome health. Their groundbreaking offering, BioCaps, entails probiotics meticulously encapsulated within vegetable protein capsules. This innovative approach empowers consumers to effortlessly harness the full benefits of probiotics without the need to consume dairy or fermented products. Moreover, Nucaps goes beyond conventional probiotic solutions by presenting their esteemed and highly innovative tailored product: Immunocaps. This exceptional creation leverages the fusion of probiotics and vaccines, providing a single-pill solution to enhance immunity. In certain cases, vaccines may not yield optimal results due to complications associated with intestinal bacteria, particularly during the early years of life. An imbalance in the intestinal flora can predispose the immune system to respond inadequately to vaccines, which is precisely where Immunocaps comes into play, offering a promising solution.

Substituting dairy and fats through personalized ingredient development

The development of personalized ingredients not only focuses on their functionality but also on preserving the nutritional value of the ingredients they replace. Functional ingredients, by definition, contain bioactive components that can be utilized in the production of complex food products. A prime example of a functional ingredient is casein, a protein commonly derived from milk, which plays a vital role in muscle growth and cellular function.

The two primary technologies employed in the creation of specialized ingredients are precision fermentation and cellular agriculture. These methodologies involve genetic transformation, followed by the scalable reproduction of cells, resulting in the production of functional ingredients in the form of proteins or lipids.

Barcelona-based startup Cubiq Foods is at the forefront of developing alternative fats using cellular agriculture and fermentation techniques. Their innovative approach delivers sustainable, healthy, and premium-quality fat options that maintain their nutritional value, making them highly versatile for cooking. The Go!Drop line converts liquid oils into solid or semi-solid fats, providing a healthier and more natural choice to accompany plant-based meat. However, the company doesn't stop at plant-based fats. They have also ventured into cultivated fats sourced directly from growing animal fat cells. Their product, Go!Great, created using cell culture, enables the creation of richly flavored food products.

Addittionally, Healthy Food Ibérica is Spanish pioneering company in the development of unsaturated fats that aid the food industry in its transition towards a new and healthier dietary approach. Their flagship project, Verdeo, involves an oleogel derived from olive oil that maintains its solidity and stability at room temperature, thereby presenting limitless possibilities for the creation of innovative recipes and products, avoiding the use of preservatives and reducing the number of ingredients in new product launches. Also, the antioxidant properties of olive oil contribute to extending the shelf life of the final product.

Through their commitment to natural processes and compositions, Healthy Food Ibérica successfully produces a homogeneous, stable, and easily incorporable technical fat. Unlike butter, Verdeo is suitable for vegans and vegetarians, making it a versatile option for a diverse range of dietary preferences. It is also allergen-free and gluten-free, appealing to the palates of consumers with various dietary restrictions and preferences.

For individuals with lactose intolerance or those who choose to avoid dairy, the consumption of casein and other dairy proteins becomes a challenge.

Addressing this issue, Barcelona-based startup Vacka offers a solution for lactose-intolerant individuals and those following a dairy-free diet. They create fermented plant-based cheeses using pumpkin and melon seeds, providing alternatives that melt and can be used as cheese ingredients in various culinary applications. Additionally, the Spanish startup Mommus caters to clients who do not consume lactose by producing plant-based alternatives to cheese. These cheese alternatives are crafted using cashews, water, salt, and natural fermentations.

Likely, the Segovia-based startup Quevana provides cashew-based cheese as an alternative to traditional lactose cheese. They exclusively use raw cashews, water, Himalayan salt, and cultures in their production. Their products boast exceptional nutritional qualities, thanks to the use of organic cashews, which are rich in protein and healthy fats. Additionally, the incorporation of plant-based cultures not only contributes to the distinctive flavor but also offers benefits for intestinal flora and fortifies the immune system.

Moreover, in the alternative dairy sector, Real Deal Milk, another Barcelona-based startup, aims to create milk, cheese, and yogurt substitutes with the same biological properties, taste, and texture as their dairy counterparts, but without involving cows. Real Deal Milk utilizes precision fermentation to produce casein and whey, the proteins commonly found in milk. By providing yeast cells with the genetic instructions to produce these proteins, they act as miniature protein factories, generating the desired proteins.

These innovative approaches in personalized ingredient development and alternative dairy production showcase the ongoing efforts to cater to individuals with specific dietary restrictions or preferences while maintaining the desired taste, texture, and nutritional benefits of traditional dairy products.

Nature can be another source of personalized ingredients 

Various products are currently being developed that combine natural ingredients to target specific subgroups of the population seeking specific health benefits. By combining herbs, vitamins, fruits, and other natural substances, detailed formulations are being created to address specific aspects of our lifestyles.

For instance, the Madrid-based Baia Foods has introduced powdered creamers fortified with probiotics, collagen, L-theanine, and reishi extracts, catering to coffee and tea enthusiasts. These powdered supplements, when added to morning beverages, offer distinct health benefits. The product line includes four variants, each targeting specific health benefits such as improved mental clarity and concentration, strengthened hair, enhanced collagen density, hydrated skin, reduced wrinkles; better intestinal health, enhanced nutrient absorption, improved digestion, reduced inflammation; as well as reduced fatigue, stress, anxiety, and enhanced sleep quality. 

Relash, based in Madrid, is another company that leverages natural functional ingredients to craft refreshing and soothing beverages. By incorporating green tea extracts, ginseng root, lemon balm, and vitamin C, they harness the inherent properties of these ingredients to regulate neurotransmission activity, promote mind-body balance, and reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels. Their aim is to provide drinks that not only quench thirst but also contribute to overall well-being.

Furthermore, the strategic combination of natural functional ingredients can enhance specific biological functions, offering personalized experiences to consumers. The Spanish startup NUMA VIDA, for example, uses a blend of cocoa, coconut, and seeds to create snacks tailored for women in the postpartum stage. Their specific ingredient combination is designed to assist with hormonal control during motherhood, with cocoa playing a central role in personalization.

These advancements in utilizing natural functional ingredients provide opportunities for customization and added value in various product offerings, catering to specific health goals and individual preferences.


  1. Dore, M. P., Mereu, S., Saba, P. S., Portoghese, M., & Pes, G. M. (2023). Celiac Disease and Cardiovascular Risk: A Retrospective Case-Control Study. Journal of clinical medicine, 12(6), 2087.
  2. AEPNAA. Alergia a las proteínas del huevo