Developing Culturally-Inclusive Products the Right Way

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By Mike Yatcilla, Senior Vice President, Research and Development, Herbalife Nutrition 

Today’s consumers have a growing understanding that they are what they eat and that healthier options impact their physical and emotional well-being. Over 54% of global respondents report that eating healthier is a top priority and one they would be willing to pay more for. As one of the world’s largest suppliers of nutritional products, with over 120 product types sold around the world, we understand that to help improve dietary habits, products need to be great-tasting and culturally inclusive. In the nutrition industry, meeting health needs with great tasting, nutritional products that also match a diverse global market’s regional and cultural desires should be considered.

As a company that operates across 95 markets– we recognize diversity as a strength. Not just when it comes to our independent distributor and employee base, but because we have the responsibility of providing nutritious products to consumers of all backgrounds, cultures and walks of life. 

As coaches, independent distributors are the ones who know our customers best since their business revolves around helping others reach their wellness goals. And what works in one market, may not always work in another.

Nutrition is Personal 
Nutrition is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Social and physical determinants such as geography, education or knowledge, and cultural preferences determine access to food or nutrition. That is why personalization trend continues to gain momentum in the nutrition industry. Every customer has a unique set of nutritional needs that may change over time, which makes having a vast portfolio of dietary supplements so important.

When we develop products, we begin by listening and learning from our independent distributors around the world who understand their market’s unique preferences and needs. Collaboration with our global team members, our Nutrition Advisory Board members’ scientific insights and our in-house scientific team is imperative to develop new products that meet the evolving needs of global consumers to continue building their trust in our products and our brand. 

Creating Culturally-Inclusive Products 

Ensuring that products meet the industry’s high standards for taste, texture, and quality requires a keen understanding of local flavors and product needs. Consumer preferences vary by age, region, and culture. For example, 78% of U.S. consumers say eating healthy is vital for their emotional well-being, while in China, 44% of adults aged 18-59 believe having a good gut reduces anxiety.  

In our recently launched Global Responsibility Report: Nurturing People and Planet, we shared why our products contribute to a healthy society and our commitment to product stewardship. We do this is by expanding our product offerings and diversifying our flavors to the needs and preferences of our truly global consumer base, and making investments in technology that keeps our products safe and our supply chain on track.

Investing in global R&D capabilities, with sensory labs in each of our primary regions: North America, South America, Europe, China, Asia Pacific, and India, enables us to develop regional flavors more efficiently. We also have local experts in charge of the entire product development process. Soon we will also be investing in new development centers to create products specifically inspired by local cultures, one of which has already launched in China, and we plan to open similar development centers in APAC, Brazil and Europe and Africa. 

An excellent example of our product customization is our top-selling Formula 1, which launched in 1980 with one flavor: Vanilla. Today, we have nearly 40 different varieties, with region-specific flavors, such as Kulfi, and more recently Rose Kheer, in India, Matcha and Red Bean in China, Melon in Russia, Chocolate Hazelnut in South and Central America, and Arroz con Leche in Mexico. Seasonal flavors are always popular in North America, such as Pumpkin Spice, Pralines and Cream, and seasonal Maple Pecan – all of which resonate with customers and deliver a comfort food experience. 

Another investment companies should consider is accelerating development proceses to improve speed-to-market. We have invested extensively in reducing the amount of time it takes to launch products. New product development or time to market, now takes, on average, 22% less time compared to the past two years. We have also simplified the product change process, which has resulted in significant savings and increased efficiencies. 

A culturally inclusive environment requires mutual respect, effective relationships, clear communication, explicit understandings about expectations, which is why its important to work and listen closely with your teams in different countries to help leveraging consumer trends to develop products that will resonate with your different target audiences. For example, our Protein Chips that launched in Europe and Africa reflect more demand for healthy snacking, particularly with a younger demographic. It’s also worth considering the development of different wellness product types in order to expand offerings to the larger wellness consumer category. We’ve done this through our Enrichual skincare line in the U.S., formulated with hemp cannabinoids, and our Ayruveda line in India, supporting brain health and immunity.

Providing Plant-Based Protein Alternatives 

 As many consumers are looking to implement more plant-based diets, plant-based proteins are proliferating; expected to grow to 15.6 billion U.S. dollars in 2026, compared to the 10.3 billion the market was estimated to be worth in 2020. This would constitute an increase of close to five billion U.S. dollars. Herbalife Nutrition has been harnessing the power of plants for over 40 years and diversifying the sustainable sources of protein we use in our products. Today, based on our raw material consumption, 84% of the protein in our products is plant-based, using the primary ingredients of soy, pea, rice, and quinoa, which provides the essential amino acids found in a complete protein.  

We provide alternative sources of plant-based proteins for customers with specific dietary needs and preferences. While the majority of our products are developed using soy, we also offer other plant protein blends, including pea, quinoa and, rice. Other offerings include non-GMO ingredients, gluten-free, vegetarian, and Kosher certified, to meet the demands of different consumers. Our first 100% vegan protein shake, contains a unique combination of pea, quinoa, and flaxseed. Meanwhile, consumers looking for protein designed specifically for sports performance will typically look for options that offer dairy and whey-based protein products.

 Developing products to help nourish the world is a privilege. By personalizing nutrition, we are committed to offering a variety of healthy options and choosing products that best fit the world’s flavor preferences, convenience needs, and nutritional requirements.