Holland & Barrett is fast becoming a compelling wellbeing destination.

Over the past few months, it’s been busy adding extra services to its repertoire. The latest is possibly its most ambitious move yet: a tie-up with DnaNudge. 

Today, Holland & Barrett announced it was piloting the startup’s “revolutionary” nutrition and skincare genetics services at its flagship Marble Arch store. The services will give shoppers an insight into the foods and skincare best suited to their individual make-up, with the aim of informing buying habits.

It’s an obvious win for the Imperial College spinout DnaNudge, which has struggled to move its services beyond the niche wellness space. Rather than its personalised tests, its most notable breakthrough came when it received more than five million orders from the UK government for a rapid, lab-free Covid-19 test. 

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Coming at £100 per test, it remains a product for the affluent. But a tie-up with Holland & Barrett – until now, DnaNudge relied on its web presence and a sole Chelsea outlet – takes the technology one step closer towards the mainstream.

More crucially, the partnership speaks reams about Holland & Barrett’s ambitions. The DNA testing service forms part of its plans to “go beyond product and offer personalised services and solutions”, says Cal Price, head of new wellness partnerships.

His job title is indicative of the direction Holland & Barrett is taking. And over the past year, we’ve seen a spate of added-value services hit stores. In October, the chain launched menopause clinics in 18 stores – training 4,000 store staff on how to spot the signs, and how to advise customers seeking treatment.

Just last week, it announced a similar campaign to train 4,000 store staff as gut health advisors, who will in turn be able to point shoppers towards the store’s own shelves for solutions.

“We know that our customers are increasingly looking for information and advice to help them know where to start with positively managing their health,” Price explains.

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The pilot location

The gut health and menopause advice is free to shoppers. Whether pricey DNA testing will hold the same appeal amid a cost of living crisis remains to be seen. And let’s not forget DnaNudge has been here before: in 2019, it partnered with Waitrose. But personalised services are no doubt a growing area – and a tie-up in one store is a minimal risk for Holland & Barrett, which can use the pilot to gauge demand.

If it takes off, we could soon see DNA testing in more stores. And customers might start seeing Holland & Barrett as far more than a place to stock up on vitamins.