On May 24, Nestlé Health Science acquired Prometheus Labs, a California maker of medical devices and pharmaceuticals for the gastrointestinal market. This is the business unit’s third purchase in less than eight months, according to a Dow Jones article. Analysts speculate Nestlé paid between $500 million and $1 billion for the company.
To recap, Nestlé Health Science was formed to create nutritional solutions for people with specific dietary needs related to illnesses, disease states or the special challenges of different life stages.
To further these efforts, in late March it acquired CM&D Pharma, a small Switzerland-based drug company specializing in kidney disease, IBD and colon cancer. The company’s leading product, Fostrap, is a “medical food” in the form of a chewing gum fortified with chitosan for kidney patients who have an elevated level of phosphate in the blood (i.e., hyperphosphataemia). While this condition is rare in the general population, it commonly affects patients with kidney failure or renal insufficiency.
Prior to the CM&D deal, Nestlé Health Science purchased Vitaflo, a U.K.-based clinical nutrition company, which develops products for infants, children and adults with genetic disorders that affect how food is processed by the body—e.g., phenylketonuria (PKU), maple syrup urine disease (MSUD) and homocystinuria (HCU). From specially formulated omega 3 supplements to protein shots, the company produces a wide range of products that offer nutritional and metabolic support.
About the latest buy, Luis Cantarell, Nestlé Health Science president and CEO, said, “This acquisition is a strategic move into gastrointestinal diagnostics. Prometheus’s leading edge diagnostics and highly experienced medical sales representatives together constitute a robust platform for Nestlé Health Science to accelerate its current and future healthcare business. It will enable new personalized healthcare solutions based on diagnostics, pharma and nutrition.”
This means Nestlé Health Science will have the capability to offer both diagnosis and treatment with pharmaceuticals and nutrition products. Finally, we have a company with a strong interest in linking food, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and dietary supplements—a company that believes consumers deserve more than pharmaceuticals when it comes to their medical needs. Is this the wave of the future? And are other companies likely to follow suit?
Datamonitor analyst Mark Whalley thinks so. “The current market’s personalized food and beverage offerings are likely only a small representation of what’s to come. As interest amongst consumers increases, we expect to see a surge in the number of food and drink companies launching products with DNA/genetic influences over the next few years, probably originating from smaller niche companies looking to find gaps in the market.”
Mr. Whalley also said the concept of personalized nutrition is lucrative if approached effectively. “Most of the big food and beverage players will be identifying this as something interesting to consider for the long term.” Certainly Nestlé wouldn’t spend upward of $1 billion if it didn’t believe in the future of personalized nutrition.
According to Greek mythology, the god Prometheus bestowed the gift of fire to mortals on earth, bringing them warmth and light to relieve their suffering in the darkness. Obviously Nestlé has seen the light. I hope the healthcare world will too.