Functional brands: the first step toward personalisation? – DFInsights November 18


We hear a lot of things about personalisation, but what does that mean, especially for food products and how are we going to go there?

The goal is pretty simple to explain: make everyone’s products personalised. And as often with ventures that are simple to explain, there is a considerable amount of effort to go there. Few questions arise immediately:

  • how to define personalisation for each customer: are we going to use genetics to know the person’s needs or are we letting him choose?
  • Where will the personalisation take place? At home with a 3D printer, with supplements or directly in the retail store where products will arrive semi-finished and will be “completed” there?

As much as we like to discuss long-term strategies, we also want to see what is the first step to get there. For personalisation, we call it « functional branding ». More and more new brands are selling products that don’t market their taste but what value they will bring to your lifestyle.

We can divide these functional brands into 3 sub-categories (with some overlapping):

  • heath functional brands: they build products based on natural ingredients (such as turmeric) that may be hard for consumers to add to their diet. Each ingredient having effects on the customer’s health (anti-inflammatory effects for turmeric)
  • nootropics: products (mostly drinks) acting on mental functions for improving your energy or focus
  • CBD (cannabidiol): most CBD-based products (Cannabis) don’t brand the taste but the functions (less oriented toward health or productivity)


Here are 5 examples of startups building functional brands:

  • Dirty Lemon is a beverage startup with a twist. You don’t buy one of their drinks for the taste but for what it contains. You can choose between the matcha drink for vitality, the charcoal one for detox, CBD to relax, etc. As many DNVBs (Digital Native Vertical Brand) brand has been really successful online with a lot of fans on Instagram and it is now opening its first store in New York.
  • Synapse which defines itself as a “natural cognitive boost”
  • LifeAid has a range of functional drinks, among which one for golfers (however, it is recommended to consume ice cold, even on the course).
  • Olly and OneGum, two startups developing gums. The former is mostly health and beauty oriented (a gum to be more beautiful is a strong promise) and the later helps you get more energy.

And you can see through these examples, this trend can mostly be seen in beverage startups. Few food products currently have functional branding, but that may change. These functional products are more and more seen into larger offers. For example, a meal delivery startups such as Urban Remedy who sells ready-to-eat meals for diets (to kick-start your keto diet in 3 days) is selling anti-inflammatory (with turmeric) juices.

Considering this trend, a major question arises: who will tell customers what functions they need? But this will be the theme for another article.

Have a great week,


Big Deals


Trace Genomics raised $13m in series A (with AgFunder among the investors). The startup develops combines its tests to AI to improve crops’ yields.


Data impact, a French retailTech startup raised €8 m fort its data collection and analysis platform (for food e-commerce). The goal is now to grow outside of France, especially in the US.

Top News


Taste can’t be copyrighted but that may change soon. Two Duch cheese companies have made the news last week with the court rule opposing them. The first one (Levola) was accusing the second one (Smilde) of having copied the taste of a cheese. The Court of Justice of the EU (Europe’s highest court) has ruled that a taste can’t be copyright as it’s “an idea” rather than an “expression of an original intellectual creation”. However, things may change in the incoming years with more and more startups (and big players such as IBM) working on making the comparison of tastes accurate.
The Spoon

How food and beverage startups use celebrities: In may, we talked about these startups having well-known football players and tv shows actors partnering with them. The trend is not going to stop there. This article shows how endorsement is a thing of the past and how cool startups are luring the famous to become bot ambassadors while taking some equity as investors.

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