Digital Health

A Delicious Primer on Food-as-Medicine

Food as Medicine

Rock Health dished up a fantastic primer on the food-as-medicine market, serving as a helpful cheatsheet of which trends will stay fresh the longest, and which ones are already stale.

Fertile grounds for new FaM models have been created by shifting consumer behaviors around diet and wellness, with 20% of US adults saying the pandemic prompted healthier choices. [Graphic: Three eras of food-as-medicine]

  • Payors are also grappling with the rising costs of treating the nearly 50% of Americans with diet-related illness, and FaM offers an avenue to reign these in without pricey medications like GLP-1s.
  • Policy changes have also planted the seeds for growth, with new initiatives helping scale FaM programs like medically tailored meals. One wild stat is that FaM partnership volume in the last 18 months has surpassed that of the prior seven years combined.

As the FaM market begins to sprout, startups are facing an increasingly complicated menu of funding sources and potential partners

Value chain segment #1: Food access

  • Food and supply chain – Providers of healthy groceries, prepared meals, or digital marketplaces for third-party products, including delivery partners and food “farmacies” that fill clinician’s produce prescriptions. Examples: Mom’s Meals, Uber Health
  • Service navigation – Services that refer consumers to food access programs and support enrollment, often through community orgs like FQHCs. Examples: Findhelp, Unite Us

Value chain segment #2: Nutrition care

  • Medical nutrition counseling – Virtual or in-person nutrition counseling with dietitians to provide tailored nutrition plans and resources. Examples: Foodsmart, Season Health
  • Behavior change support – Tools for tracking diet and outcomes, educational content, and recommendations. Includes non-digital services like nutrition and cooking classes. Examples: Heali, SeekingSimple

Value chain segment #3: Program enablers

  • Fintech – Targeted tools and vouchers (category-restricted to healthy products) that enable consumers to use food benefits provided by their health plan. Examples: Solutran, Soda Health
  • Data and food benefits management – Data on consumer behavior or food products to help payors optimize benefit design, measure program impact, and inform engagement strategies. Examples: DietID, NourishedRx

The Takeaway

The food-as-medicine market is turning into a “cornucopia of innovation,” but founders looking to take advantage of new funding mechanisms now have to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to business models and potential partners.

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