This year, about 45 million Americans will go on some kind of weight loss diet, and they’ll spend $33 billion doing it. However, very few of them will get to the core of how and why they became overweight in the first place. One of the biggest factors is metabolism, the rate at which the body turns consumed food into energy. Until recently, the measurement of metabolic processes was reserved for world-class athletes and dangerously obese medical patients.
A direct-to-consumer (DTC) medical device company called Lumen is out to change that. Founded in 2014, Lumen aims to help Americans focus on metabolism as the key to weight loss and nutrition.
Just two weeks ago, Lumen brought to market its device and app, which quickly sold out. Here’s how it works: The user measures carbon dioxide concentration by breathing into a handheld device, which resembles an oblong remote control device. The C02 levels indicate the type of food the user’s body is using to produce energy, a mix of fat and carbs. Based on the metabolic reading, the app then provides the user with suggestions on when and what to eat.
The company aims to bring the term metabolic flexibility, which is the body's ability to efficiently switch between the use of carbs and fats as a fuel source, into the exercise and nutrition lexicon.
Founded in 2014, Lumen’s ability to measure metabolism was found to correlate with respiratory exchange ratio (RER), which is the metric that hospitals use. It represents the ratio of carbon dioxide (C02) to oxygen (02) consumed. Before Lumen, measuring RER required a person to enter a metabolic chamber for up to 60 minutes, after which a trained practitioner would analyze the results. Lumen claims that its patent-pending technology can accomplish the same thing in a single breath.
According to Marketing VP Daniel Rosenfeld, one of his main challenges is getting consumers to understand that the Lumen device is just the beginning of – and only part of – using the measurements properly. After taking their Lumen measurement, users must then combine it with the app to improve their overall metabolic health.
For better or worse, when most Americans think of health these days, it probably has more to do with a pandemic than metabolism. And when they think about test results, it’s more likely to involve a positive or negative than a number.
“Unfortunately, at the moment, there are companies that are either surviving, going bust or thriving during this time,” Rosenfeld noted. “Most companies that are in the health and wellness space are either surviving or thriving. But as we only started selling online a few months prior to the pandemic (we were out of stock prior), it is harder to benchmark what it would be like without the situation. I can say that it has led us to think differently and explore other markets we were not necessarily considering at this stage.”
The messaging for Lumen is based more on the benefits of proper nutrition than on the bells and whistles of a new device. The company’s blog is focused on general nutrition issues, such as the benefits and drawbacks of a keto diet. With the pandemic, that hasn’t changed.
“When the situation started, like everyone else, we were unsure what the impact would be, and we started exploring selling in regions that were less affected,” Rosenfeld said. “But one of the most important decisions was to make no messaging changes at all. We saw many brands trying to sell their products as immunity builders, but we didn't want to build our brand on fear, but rather excitement for what Lumen has to offer. And there are studies that show people with a healthy metabolism have stronger immunities, but that's not the reason someone should buy a Lumen.”
A good deal of the company’s marketing is via influencers such as Dr. Mark Hyman, head of strategy and innovation of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine.
“Our main goal with affiliates and influencers alike is that they have a connection to what we are doing, and that they want to be our affiliate or influencer because they see the value Lumen will bring their viewers or followers,” Rosenfeld said. “We don’t work with any coupon sites – it’s all about content and storytelling; we want our influencers to amplify our mission, not simply sell units.”