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Personal shopper: the DNA test telling us what to buy

As big retail brands continue to close stores on the high street, experts are predicting that cinemas, restaurants and apartments will take their place.

But what if the high street of the future is more, well, futuristic?

That’s the question that popped into our heads when we learnt about DNA Nudge – the UK’s first DNA-based health/tech store.

Originally launched as a store-within-a-store concept in two branches of John Lewis and Waitrose, DNA Nudge has recently opened its own store in Covent Garden, where you can literally walk in off the street and have your DNA extracted as casually as having a coffee.

The twist? It’s not just a shop telling you about your DNA. It’s your DNA telling you how to shop.

Step into the future

The DNA Nudge store is clean, bright and minimalist, like a cross between an Apple Store and a private fertility clinic.

You can pop in without an appointment and buy a DNA Health Package there and then. After a simple cheek swab and an hour wait, your DNA is extracted, digitalised, and promptly destroyed for privacy reasons.

The results are loaded on to a little capsule, which slots into a wristband, and on to your DNA Nudge App. Together, they can ‘nudge’ you towards healthier choices, based on your unique genetic make-up.

When you’re doing the food shopping, you can scan barcodes using the wristband and it will flash red or green to show you if the item is good or bad for you. The app will suggest healthier alternatives for ‘red’ products.

The wristband even monitors your activity – if you’re inactive, foods that were once green will flash amber, to show you that you’re not moving enough to be healthy. 

It’s straight out of a sci-fi movie. But are today’s shoppers ready for it?

Image: DNA Nudge

The Whippet verdict

At £120 for the whole kit, DNA Nudge is aimed at people who are happy to spend money on their health, which means they’re probably interested in healthy eating. Can DNA Nudge really tell these wellness enthusiasts anything they don’t already know? Apparently, yes.

The DNA report looks at eight areas where you could have a genetically-predisposed weakness, including caffeine metabolism, risk of obesity and carbohydrates. As far as dietary advice goes, it’s more comprehensive and personalised than ‘avoid salt and sugar’ which has become de rigueur. 

Plus, even when you know what’s good and bad for you, it’s hard to make sense of long ingredient lists and vague health claims; DNA Nudge turns all that information into a simple red or green light.

We reckon the flashing red light would make us very likely to put down the ‘bad’ food, especially if the app suggested a similar alternative. One example given by the co-founder is that his DNA Nudge recommended salted peanuts over dry roasted, because they’ve actually got less salt.

The idea that foods we thought were healthy are actually unhealthy, and vice versa, is intriguing. So is the possibility of there being a nasty health condition lurking in our DNA, which could be prevented by eating the right food.

We’ve gone from being vaguely freaked out by the whole thing, to almost wanting to try it for ourselves. But giving our DNA to a random shop in the middle of London? It’s not getting the green light from us just yet.

Image: DNA Nudge
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