Top 5 innovations from DSM Expo 2021: exploring ways to keep the world’s growing population healthy

By: Talking Nutrition Editors

  • DSM Expo 2021, the interactive virtual event hosted from 16-18 March, brought together industry-leading guest speakers and DSM experts for live webinars, Q&As and virtual booths with online chat functions.
  • The event covered insights from numerous market segments in nutrition and health – including early life nutrition, dietary supplements, food and beverage, nutrition improvement and medical nutrition – and highlighted the most recent developments and innovations within each field.
  • From the newly launched DSM Consumer Health Concerns Study 2021 to the latest scientific discoveries, DSM Expo 2021 explored the biggest challenges and opportunities in nutrition and health, including immunity, gut health, the potential of vitamin D for patient care and how to combat the global malnutrition crisis.

Although attendance of ‘in-person’ events is not currently practical, research, development and knowledge sharing between industry experts is vital for continuous growth in the nutrition and health industry. At a time where consumers are paying more attention to their health and wellbeing, as well as their nutrition, innovations are needed to keep up with market demand and provide important nutritional support.

DSM Expo 2021 – hosted via a virtual environment – allowed key opinion leaders, manufacturers and researchers to come together safely to discuss and get inspired on how to create purpose-led, sustainable nutritional solutions that can keep the world’s growing population healthy.

Here, we discuss the top five innovations from DSM Expo 2021:

1. Early life nutrition for a better start to life

The importance of the first 1,000 days of a child’s life — from the onset of pregnancy to the second year of life — is undisputed and has only increased during the pandemic, due to concerns about immunity and access to healthcare. Nutrition plays a large role in supporting healthy growth and development in children, and is a top priority for parents. In the UK, for example, 32% of parents to children under the age of four reported that COVID-19 has placed greater importance on adequate nutrition.1 New innovations in early life nutrition are therefore focusing on creating ‘smart’, targeted products that offer high nutritional value and support cognitive and immune development in children. These solutions include key nutrients such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, such as the combination of arachidonic acid (ARA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) for brain and eye development2 and vitamin C for immune support.

Furthermore, the latest science on human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) shows that these ingredients, which are the third most abundant component of breast milk, directly impact brain and digestive health in infants.3,4 This research offers opportunities for the nutrition industry to develop innovative, safe products that allow mothers to ensure their babies achieve adequate HMOs intake, regardless of whether they are able or choose to breastfeed.

From pre-conception to breastfeeding, the health of the mother is also incredibly important for infant development. Maternal nutrition solutions are increasingly focused on providing immune health support, which aligns with consumer demand – 64% of pregnant women in Europe are worried about their immunity.5 Plus, manufacturers are also creating products for mothers that provide benefits beyond immunity, offering nutritional support against signs of fatigue.

2. Dietary supplement innovations for gut health

As 80% of immune cells reside in the gut, a healthy digestive system is one of the first lines of defense against disease.6 It is understandable, therefore, that consumer interest in gut health is growing on a global scale, with one in three people taking dietary supplements to support their digestive wellbeing.7 In the EMEA region, nearly half of consumers associate gut health with feeling bloated, and over a quarter of individuals are concerned about not enjoying the foods they love.8 Manufacturers are, as a result, increasingly conducting research into innovative ingredients like HMOs that can help them meet evolving consumer demands. Furthermore, the delivery of targeted solutions can help to ensure the active ingredients are delivered quickly and efficiently for optimal gut health support. DSM’s new vitamin solution, V-DIRECT, uses targeted delivery systems to allow for optimal absorption into the colon, helping producers develop solutions that provide more efficient digestive health support.

Beyond gut health, consumer concerns over eye, brain and heart health have led to an increase in demand for omega-3 solutions.9 However, as our main source of omega-3 has historically been derived from fish oils, environmentally conscious consumers are looking for a more sustainable option. That’s why DSM developed life’s™OMEGA, the only commercially available potent plant-based omega-3 solution that delivers both EPA and DHA in a single source to offer manufacturers a vegan and sustainably-sourced alternative to traditional omega-3 products.

To meet evolving consumer needs and lead at the forefront of the nutrition and health industry, producers are also continually looking for ways to speed up the route to market. DSM’s Market Ready Solutions offering provides high-quality, science-backed and safe products that can be launched quicker, and both HMOs and life’s™OMEGA will be introduced in a market-ready format later this year.

3. Supporting nutrition with fortified food and beverages

In the current climate, immune health is a high priority for many people, so finding innovative and simple ways to support the immune system is crucial for manufacturers in the nutrition and health industry. For example, in the EMEA region, vitamin C (78%), vitamin D (63%) and omega-3 fatty acids (54%) are the top three ingredients associated with boosting immunity.10 Consumers are also concerned about managing their mental and emotional health (60%) and tiredness (66%) in their daily lives, leading them to search for products that not only offer immune support, but also aid relaxation and energy levels through nutrients like B vitamins.11

So, how can manufacturers deliver these ingredients to consumers effectively? Adding essential micronutrients to commonly consumed food and beverages provides people with a convenient option for supporting their overall health. Vitamins and minerals can, for instance, be added to juice drinks, bread and snack foods, but there is ample opportunity for producers to innovate and diversify their portfolio across food and beverage categories. 

Fortification is also quickly becoming a popular option for manufacturers of plant-based food and beverages – an industry that is experiencing substantial growth as rising numbers of consumers adopt vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian lifestyles.12 When trying to create plant-based food and beverages, manufacturers often struggle to replicate not only the sensory elements such as texture and flavor, but also the nutritional profile of traditional protein products like meat and dairy. At DSM Expo 2021, DSM’s R&D experts discussed how solutions like enzymes, hydrocolloids and nutritional premixes can help producers create plant-based products that offer optimized taste, mouthfeel and nutritional value alike. 

4. Food fortification to tackle malnutrition and end world hunger

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global malnutrition crisis is significant, both due to food shortages and the fact that people with insufficient nutrient intakes are more likely to have weakened immune systems. It is more important than ever that the public and private sectors work together to ensure that all people have access to the nutrient-rich food they need to stay healthy and thrive. 

The fortification of staple foods such as rice and flour with essential vitamins and minerals is a cost-effective, safe and efficient way of increasing the nutritional intake of consumers. And the added nutrients also make a product more popular – in Nigeria, for example, 89% of consumers are more likely to buy a food product if it contains high levels of vitamins or minerals.13 In order to fortify foods successfully and ensure consumer acceptance, manufacturers need to consider the sensory aspects of products, such as taste, texture and visual appeal. And to achieve the upscale necessary for large scale distribution, producers can work with fortification experts, governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) specializing in this field. DSM partners with global organizations to educate governments and advise on regional and national schemes, such as school feeding programs and workplace nutrition initiatives, helping to incorporate fortified foods into more diets and create brighter lives for all.

5. Supporting patient care and outcomes through medical nutrition

The past year has increased the urgency of many forms of medical care, but the negative impact of the pandemic on vulnerable people, such as patients and the elderly, has been significant. Often with frailer immune systems, these individuals are at risk of serious repercussions from contracting COVID-19. Innovations in the medical nutrition field are focusing on immune support, with research exploring the link between vitamin D and immune health in patients. For example, a study in the USA suggested that individuals with higher levels of vitamin D may have a lower risk of developing serious symptoms from COVID-19.14 At a time where speed is vital to ensure the risk of the pandemic is quelled as quickly and safely as possible, the findings of such research offer an opportunity for medical nutrition innovation that has the potential to improve patient care and health outcomes globally. 

A few final words…

The importance of ongoing innovation and collaboration throughout the nutrition and health industry has never been more important. We hope you were inspired by the trends, latest science and nutritional solutions that were presented during DSM Expo 2021. As your end-to-end partner, we are looking forward to continuing the discussion and helping you deliver innovative, differentiated products that help keep the world’s growing population healthy.

Get in touch to find out more about the innovations covered at DSM Expo 2021 and learn how you can partner with DSM to create purpose-led nutritional solutions.

Published on

19 April 2021


  • Industry News
  • Marketing
  • R&D
  • Senior Management
  • Article
  • Health & Nutrition
  • Early Life
  • Food and Beverage
  • Medical Nutrition
  • Nutrition Improvement
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Innovation Services


7 min read

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  1. KuRunData/Mintel, Lightspeed/Mintel, UK (Feb 2021). Base: 81 UK parents of children aged 4 and under.
  2. Berthold Koletzko et al, ‘Should formula for infants provide arachidonic acid along with DHA? A position paper of the European Academy of Paediatrics and the Child Health Foundation’, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2020.
  3. S. Jacobi et al., ‘Dietary Isomers of Sialyllactose Increase Ganglioside Sialic Acid Concentrations in the Corpus Callosum and Cerebellum and Modulate the Colonic Microbiota of Formula-Fed Piglets’, J Nutr., vol. 146, no. 2, pg. 200-8, 2016.
  4. S. Kar at al., ‘Effects of omega-3 fatty acids in prevention of early preterm delivery: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized studies.’, Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol., vol. 198, p. 40-46, 2016.
  5. DSM Global Health Concerns Survey, 2021.
  6. Helen Yeman, ‘V-Direct: Breakthrough innovation in gut health’, 2021.
  7. DSM Global Health Concerns Survey, 2021.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Global Immunity Consumer Panel, DSM, 2020.
  11. DSM Global Health Concerns Survey, 2021.
  12. DSM Insights Report conducted by Totta Research surveying 500 people from Germany, France, the Netherlands, the UK and USA, split between 5 age groups: 18-30, 31-40,41-50, 51-60 & 61-plus.
  13. Sagaci Research Analysis.
  14. Harvey W. Kaufman, SARS-CoV-2 positivity rates associated with circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels, PLoS One, 2020.

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