Medico Digital Insights

Food for Special Medical Purposes (FSMP): The digital landscape in healthcare marketing

Healthcare marketing

Read time

5 min


23rd October 2023


Written by Ollie Capel

The rapid growth of the Food for Special Medical Purposes (FSMP) sector means healthcare brands will need to embrace various digital challenges to meet the demands of an already growing market.

That’s according to a recent study, first published in the Acta Marisiensis Seria Medica, which focused on two main areas: the online presence of essential FSMP brands and the strategies they currently use to target patients. 

In many countries, regulatory constraints mean that healthcare brands cannot use direct-to-consumer advertising techniques to target patients – and the FSMP industry is no exception. 

However, despite these challenges, this study has highlighted several ways that FSMP brands can boost their organic visibility, reach more patients and healthcare professionals (HCPs), and maximise profitability without using direct advertising techniques.

(Spoiler alert, digital marketing is set to play a big part!)

What are Foods for Special Medical Purposes (FSMP)?

In simple terms, Foods for Special Medical Purposes are dietary products tailored to the nutritional needs of patients with specific medical conditions. Some of the most common examples include: 

  • Oral nutritional supplements
  • Enteral nutrition 
  • Amino acid-based formulas
  • Low-protein foods

Available on a prescription-only basis, these products allow patients to manage a wide range of nutritionally sensitive medical conditions. This helps them meet their specific nutritional requirements and, ultimately, supports their overall health, well-being and quality of life. 

In other words, they’re a pretty crucial component of modern-day healthcare. 

The importance of a strong digital presence

In today’s digital age, having a strong online presence is important for any business, but it’s arguably even more so within the FSMP sector. 

With experts estimating the industry to generate future revenues of $19.67 billion in 2028 alone, the FSMP boom shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Therefore, if brands can get their digital marketing strategy right, this enormous market potential could offer significant growth opportunities. 

But, with local market restrictions around the use of direct-to-consumer advertising, this has made things slightly trickier, raising the million-dollar question: which techniques should FSMP brands be prioritising? 

Well, this is exactly what the recent study explains. 

Research-recommended strategies 

After examining the digital footprint of six FSMP brands — Fresubin, Nutridrink, Medidrink, Nutricomp, Recover Nutrition and Resource 2.0 — the researchers concluded that, given the restrictions around direct advertising, embracing certain digital marketing techniques would be vital. These included:

Search engine optimisation (SEO)

SEO is now a non-negotiable strategy for FSMP brands, according to the research. By using the right level of technical know-how, FSMP brands can seamlessly optimise their digital content and website to reach more patients. 

In doing so, this can increase organic visibility while also fostering stronger connections with consumers who are actively seeking information related to either their medical condition or dietary requirements.

That said, however, it’s also important to consider the impact that gated content can have on SEO performance – especially when marketing prescription-based FSMP products to patients and HCPs.

When done incorrectly, gated content (content that’s only available to specific audiences beyond a certain call-to-action) could hurt your SEO, since much of it won’t be visible to Google. 

However, there are things you can do to work this to your advantage. 

Brands like Nutricia, for instance, currently use an automatic pop-up self-declaration button to direct patient-centred content towards patients, and more medical-focused content towards HCPs. This then helps streamline the overall user experience without necessarily impacting the website’s SEO performance.   

Content marketing

Due to the various restrictions around traditional direct-to-consumer advertising, the study also highlighted the need for FSMP brands to turn their attention towards content marketing. 

Whether through blog posts, long-form articles, white papers, webinars, podcasts or videos, having high-quality, informative medical communications tailored to the exact needs of patients can build brand trust and authority, and patient brand loyalty.  

Here at Medico, we’ve seen this first-hand. 

Having worked with a number of healthcare brands, we fully understand the value of producing quality, valuable educational resources that drive brand awareness of products within the FSMP category, without the need for direct product-based marketing techniques. 

During our work with Nestlé Health Science, for instance, we developed a content marketing strategy to maximise the organic visibility of various local brand websites, which included a well-known FSMP product. 

By collaborating with relevant medical partners, we were able to go beyond simple keyword research, delivering consumer intent model studies that identified specific user behaviours. 

These data-driven insights then inspired a whole host of organic content – from an SEO-focused editorial calendar to premium medical copywriting – and resulted in an 80% increase in new users.

Online sales channels

With consumers mainly using online pharmacies and e-commerce shops to source FSMP products, the researchers recommend that brands partner with these types of digital sales channels to increase their reach. 

We couldn’t agree more – collaborating with platforms like these is something our team at Medico understands all too well. 

Having partnered with several online pharmacies and retailers, our team are well-versed in augmenting product and sales-based messages via various digital tools and resources. 

Through our digital marketing expertise, we have been able to help many healthcare brands not only reach new customers but also provide additional value in the supportive educational materials we produce.  

Social media engagement

With restrictions around direct-to-consumer advertising, FSMP brands should instead focus their social media efforts on engaging HCPs by delivering educational content to raise awareness and help build brand advocates. 

Creating engaging and informative content on social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter (or X) or TikTok could also help connect with audiences more authentically. 

Sharing video content on TikTok or Instagram, for example, offers an ideal opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: partnering with subject matter experts while creating valuable educational content that’s interactive and highly tailored to a specific audience. 
FSMP brands like Nualtra are a great example to follow. Sharing Instagram content like their ‘Dietitian Cafe Podcast’ and interviews with leading experts has not only made their brand more accessible, but it has also helped develop a dialogue between patients and HCPs.

Create an effective brand strategy with Medico Digital

As this study highlights, embracing digital marketing is no longer a potential for FSMP brands — it’s a necessity.

With the FSMP sector set to explode over the next few years, brands will need to create effective strategies that not only incorporate this study’s recommended techniques but also navigate any regulatory constraints and advertising guidelines.

Here at Medico Digital, we have already helped several FSMP brands achieve exactly that.

By building effective omnichannel strategies in this way, we have helped provide patients with improved access to the specialised nutritional products they need. For more information on working with us, simply get in touch

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