Ausgabe 6/2017 | 17-10-50-1

Attention Please

Marketing Challenges for Disease-Specific Medical Nutrition

Robert Dossin explains in the first of four articles why successful marketing offers numerous challenges for diseasespecific medical nutrition products.

Research & Results | Skim | Attention PleaseFoto: © peshkova – Fotolia.com
Increasingly, medical nutrition solutions are being developed to treat or prevent diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and obesity. Previously, drugs have been predominantly prescribed for these conditions, with medical nutrition traditionally only used to address malnutrition. In this first article we discuss the challenges that medical nutrition marketers have to face:
  • How to raise awareness for a new medical nutrition category
  • How to best utilize “consumer pull” and “healthcare professional push”
  • How to create desire for disease-specific medical nutrition products
  • How to highlight the unique value of disease-specific medical nutrition products
  • How to set the right price for disease-specific medical nutrition

A New Product Category

“Disease-specific medical nutrition” can be considered as a new product category: positioned between medications available from pharmacies and drug stores on the one hand, and health foods sold in supermarkets on the other. Most health services and insurers currently don’t cover the cost of these nutritional products for disease prevention or management. Consumers (patients) are therefore the final decision makers while healthcare professionals often remain strong influencers. This results in a complex competitive environment and decision-making process, making it a real challenge for marketers to optimize the uptake of these medical nutrition products.

Build Awareness

Where previously medical nutrition was mainly used to address malnutrition, medical nutrition solutions are increasingly being developed to treat or prevent diseases. At the moment, healthcare professionals and consumers are not always aware of medical nutrition as a treatment option. How should they view such a product? Is it a “serious”, clinically proven medical product or a healthy, consumer product? Is it a drug or a functional food product like Actimel? It is therefore important to build awareness not only for specific products, but also for the medical nutrition category as a whole.

Educate Healthcare Professionals

Dieticians and nurses are generally familiar with medical nutrition products, but most doctors and specialists are not. While the latter acknowledge the importance of nutrition, they are relatively unaware of the possibilities of medical nutrition as a means of treating or preventing a condition. As marketers, it is therefore crucial to take into account this awareness gap when thinking about how to encourage a healthcare professional to recommend these products to their patients.

Clarify the Position of Medical Nutrition

The first step is to assess current knowledge and perception of healthcare professionals. Depending on existing awareness, it would be beneficial to educate them about:
  • The role of nutrition in the treatment paradigm
  • The efficacy level that can be expected from medical nutrition products
  • Patient types for whom medical nutrition could be relevant
  • How to use medical nutrition products: As a supplement to or replacement for a current therapy
  • Medical nutrition’s working mechanism and potential risks in terms of side effects and interaction with other therapies
When presented with a medical nutrition product for the first time, consumers are often unclear about whether it is a serious pharmaceutical product or a healthy food product. Can a “food product” be as effective as a pharmaceutical pill or ointment? And if it is a food product, then why is it more expensive than the healthy products from the supermarket?
Since these consumers are looking for a means to manage or prevent a health condition, they will often consult a healthcare professional to ask for their endorsement. However, consumers are getting more and more knowledgeable and independent – for some conditions more than others – and they can easily search the internet to find answers or confirmation.
What does this mean for marketers of medical nutrition products? As with healthcare professionals, it is crucial to assess the current knowledge and perception of consumers and inform them about:
  • The content of medical nutrition: “Natural” or “active” ingredients
  • The kind of diseases and conditions it can be used to treat
  • Practical guidelines about when and how to use medical nutrition products
  • How to integrate them into their diet and daily lives

Defining Knowledge and Perception: Tips for Successful Medical Nutrition Marketing

Market research is essential in defining knowledge and perception about medical nutrition products in general, and about your individual products key information if you want to market your products effectively. Some tips for Marketers and Market Researchers:

Tips for Market Researchers
  • Make sure you research not only how your new product is perceived but also medical nutrition in general. This will determine the potential barriers or misunderstandings you need to overcome.
  • Your competitive environment may be wider than you expect. Make sure you get a good understanding of the perceived competition and how to differentiate your nutritional product from others – but also from drugs and health food.
  • Investigate what clinical endpoints will satisfy healthcare professionals for them to consider your product a credible alternative for treatment or prevention.

Tips for Marketers
  • Publish articles about successful clinical trials in peerreviewed scientific journals.
  • Solicit endorsements from leading specialists in relevant medical fields.
  • Organize presentations about medical nutrition at relevant medical conferences and trade fairs.
  • Develop case histories of successful medical nutrition products in text and video format and tailor them for use in brochures, presentations, press releases, advertorials, articles and web content.
  • Place human interest stories about medical nutrition in popular magazines and newspapers.


Robert Dossin is responsible for overall client relations in the Healthcare sector at SKIM. He works with Consumer Health and Pharmaceutical companies. Robert holds a Masters in Science (MSc) degree in Marketing and a Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing (DipM) from the Chartered Institute of Marketing in the UK, where he is also a Chartered Marketer and elected Fellow.



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