Lindsay Watts, RDN
Translating Science into Solutions: How Nutrition Scientists Drive Product Innovation
I used to think of nutrition scientists strictly as professors and researchers. To me, they were very smart people who worked on secret projects in a lab and intimidated students with their knowledge. Then, I came to Campbell where I learned how they conduct research, translate science into real solutions for consumers, develop claims, and more. Industry work is easier for me to understand because it results in something concrete, something that a person can see on the supermarket shelf. These experts partner with product developers, brand marketers, and consumers to make nutritious foods that people love. Their work looks different for every product, but when V8 +HydrateTM beverages launched, I saw how they drove innovation from the very beginning. Our nutrition scientists discovered the hydration benefits of sweet potato juice, guided product development, validated nutrition claims, and became the first fans of the drink. I sat down with them to learn more about their work.
Forecasting Trends, Unlocking Potential
A nutrition scientist’s work can start years before a product launches, or even before a brand thinks of a product idea. The scientist explores emerging nutrition trends and how we could use them in future products. Sometimes this means conducting research or sourcing new ingredients. Other times, it means unlocking the potential of ingredients we already use.
Several years ago, Josh Anthony PhD, MBA, Vice President of Global Nutrition and Regulatory Affairs at Campbell, recognized that more people wanted real food ingredients to help them reach their health and well-being goals. He tapped into his experience in exercise performance and recovery and took a closer look at our existing fruit and vegetable ingredients. He found that 50% sweet potato juice, was isotonic and had an ideal amount of glucose and electrolytes for hydration and replenishment, similar to the American College of Sports Medicine hydration guidelines. Our product development team created a prototype and partnered with sports nutrition experts from universities to explore if it could be beneficial for hydration and performance in athletes.1-2 This work laid the foundation for what would later become V8 +HydrateTM.
Translating Science into Well-Being Solutions
Nutrition scientists help brands create foods and beverages that meet consumer demands and are supported by scientific evidence. Brands test several versions of a product with consumers before landing on the final product idea. The nutrition scientists ensure that the claims they test can realistically be delivered by the final product.
For example, when V8 realized that people wanted a great tasting, hydration solution with natural electrolytes and no added sugar, nutrition scientist and V8 brand partner, Alexandria Hast PhD, RDN, remembered the early research Anthony conducted. She helped V8 further develop and test the concept, ultimately leading to V8 +HydrateTM, an isotonic beverage made from sweet potato juice. “We make sure that when we test an idea with consumers, it is consistent with the science, realistic, and a promise that the final product can keep,” explains Hast.
Developing Nutrition Claims
A product can taste great, but a brand needs to be able to communicate its benefits. The nutrition scientists help brands talk about their products through package claims, their website, and advertising. All nutrition claims, need to be supported by scientific evidence, and compliant with federal regulations. Christine Pelkman, PhD, helped V8 support their hydration messaging with a literature review of hydration research and the recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine.3 Her understanding of the science and collaboration with legal and regulatory professionals helped support key product claims. “My job is to understand whether or not a consumer need can be met through a product. Someone needs to be able to connect all of the dots down to the physiological level, and understand how that matches up with regulations,” says Pelkman.
From Brand Advisers to Fans
When products launch, the nutrition team is often among the first paying customers. They root for its success both as brand partners and health professionals. “I hope everyone else is as excited about it as I am,” says Hast about the launch of V8 +HydrateTM, “I know it has sound science behind it and it tastes great.” Pelkman agreed saying, “I feel very proud that a consumer can enjoy a product I helped develop, that we validated the research and delivers the claims.”
All health professionals want to help people meet their health and well-being goals. Guiding product development and putting a nutrition solution in the hands of millions is one impactful way to do this.
Anthony sums it up perfectly saying, “Nutrition scientists have an obligation to translate science to improve people’s health. Working in the food industry gives us the privilege to do this by creating great products to help people meet their health and wellness goals.”
Lindsay's BioLindsay is a nutrition communications analyst at the Campbell Soup Company where she coordinates health professional and consumer communications. She also works with internal and external partners on retail health and wellness programs. Prior to her role at Campbell, Lindsay worked as an in-store retail dietitian. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from West Chester University and completed her dietetic internship with Pennsylvania State University. Currently, Lindsay is studying for her Master of Science in Health Communications and Marketing with Boston University.
- Karpinski, Christine, R. Saltzman, K. Oberholtzer, J. Anthony, M. Reed. “Effect of a vegetable-based beverage on endurance performance following prior exercise bout.” Agro Food Industry Hi Tech. Vol. 28(2)- March/April 2017.
- Khool, Paul Y et al. “Effect of a Vegetable-based Sports Drink on Hydration During Endurance Exercise.” Medicine & Science in Sports & 47 (5S):552: May 2015.
- American College of Sports Medicine, Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, and Dietitians of Canada. Nutrition and Athletic Performance Joint Position Statement. Published 2016. DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000852.