In 2016, the size of the US supplement market was around $31B. By 2024, forecasts suggest that it could be nearly double that size with estimates approaching $54B. Multi-vitamins have been around for nearly a century and are now so pervasive in western culture that over half of the US population consumes a daily vitamin or supplement. However, for every person that incorporates dietary supplements to overcome symptoms due to a nutritional deficiency, there is another person who is over-indulging on vitamins and supplements which also affects wellness, but in a negative manner.
Finally, there is an upstart leading the revolution towards nutritional balance. The Israeli-based company has developed a solution for smart nutrition: technology that combines dietary tracking with controlled dispensing of vitamins and supplements. Grit Daily caught up with Leonid Pirogovsky as he and his team at Nutricco were preparing for their debut at CES 2020. The company will use the event to launch their “daily dose of health.”
Grit Daily: Thanks for taking some time with us today, Leonid. Most entrepreneurs have a personal connection to their inventions, what’s yours?
Leonid Pirogovsky: I’ve spent my career working within the pharma and dietary supplements industries with roles that exposed me to the differences across international markets. What became clear very quickly is how broken this market is. Consumers are spending billions of dollars on vitamins, supplements and other products that have been marketed as “healthy choices” but they don’t understand what they’re consuming or why. Even the FDA regulates dietary supplements under a different set of regulations than those imposed on drug therapies. The result? Consumption of supplements is essentially unsupervised and out of control and I had some ideas on how to put the control back into the hands of the consumers.
GD: What’s your vision for the future state of the supplements industry?
LP: My vision is to create technology that enables personalized nutritional balance, litterally offering it as a service on-demand. With our solution, consumers will be enabled to make smart but informed decisions about their own health and wellness. As we met with various leaders across nutrition, dietary supplements, health and wellness, and other fields, it became clear that there was a need in the market for a value-based approach to supplements. And we were agreed that shifts needed to happen to educate consumers and put them in control rather than continue to be mass-marketed to so that they gullibly consume whatever the ad tells them to consume. Our mission is to give consumers the tools that they need to take only the supplements that they need – when they need them.
We believe that smart nutrition and our Nutritional-Balance-as-a-Service approach will lead to improved health and wellness, reduced waste, fewer negative reactions and financial losses incurred through excess consumption of supplements. Our smart nutrition solution encourages a healthy diet, tracks dietary consumption and food intake then makes informed suggestions regarding supplements and controls which supplements are dispensed in what quantity in order to achieve nutritional balance.
GD: What makes the combination of nutrition tracking and controlled supplement dispensing so powerful?
LP: On the market today, there are some solutions for personalized nutrition including the provision of pre-packaged nutrition pods. However, we are the most advanced with respect to personalization by offering a bespoke and complete solution for smart nutrition. In addition to monitoring and controlled dispensing, we are educating consumers so that they can better understand the choices they are making and to consume supplements only when they have a gap in their nutritional balance.
GD: What’s the reaction been thus far?
LP: We ran a pilot in Israel and consumers were very pleased with it asking to buy it for themselves and their loved ones. Our smart nutrition solution goes beyond helping people on a diet to ensure that they are getting whole nutrition. Where the technology becomes interesting is that it can dispense tablets from any type of pill bottle in a controlled and child-safe manner. This opens the possibility of dispensing prescribed medications in combination with dietary supplements.
GD: Is your technology regulated by the FDA?
LP: The supplements market has been driven by marketing budgets versus regulation and education. Our approach marks the first step towards nutritional balance through complementary, controlled consumption of supplements to round out what is lacking from the diet, which is the primary approach to wellness. We aim to provide wellness through nutritional balance versus the consumption of supplements alone.
GD: Where is your product currently sold?
LP: As a company, we formed only 1.5 years go. Later in 2020, our technology, specifically the dispenser and nutritional tracker app, will be made available to the US market. Today, interested consumers can sign up for the waitlist on our website to get early access at a discounted rate.
GD: What technology have you submitted a patent application for?
LP: We worked with experienced nutritionists, mechanical and electrical engineers, and data scientists to generate content for three patent applications which include an algorithm for smart nutrition recommendations along with the device for smart and controlled dispensing. A talented design team worked on the dispenser. Our first prototype looked a lot like BB8 from Star Wars, but we have since redesigned a commercial unit that will be more compatible with a home environment based on feedback from our consumers. Although there are more than 40,000 nutrition apps available, ours is the first that is paired with controlled dispensing. We would welcome partnering with others who have designed nutrition tracking apps.
GD: What has surprised you about your journey with Nutricco thus far?
LP: I’ve been surprised by how exciting it is! After working for several companies in the past, even as part of the leadership team, it’s an entirely different experience to start your own company and move people along to your vision. You must learn fast and stick to what you believe in. What I’ve seen is how a great team can make all the difference. I’m fortunate here at Nutricco as our team is clearly going to be a major factor in our success. Together, we’re going to work to change the marketing push-approach which has been anchored in buying retail space for the last few decades. We want to see it become value-based where consumers make only the purchases that they need – because they need to make them.
GD: What is the biggest obstacle standing in your way of global adoption with this?
LP: We have advantages as being first-movers, small and nimble. We’re innovative, too. We will keep working at penetrating the market. As with any startup, backing from investors and partners who believe in what you’re doing and want to change an industry together with you are a necessary factor for success. We want people and companies to join the revolution towards smart nutrition.
GD: Do you envision seniors or their caregivers using this?
LP: We view our target market as tech-savvy individuals in their 30s to 50s who are already focused on their health and wellness. Our dispenser can hold unlimited profiles so each member of a household can have their personalized nutritional tracking via our app, but they can share the same dispenser. A key factor here is that it is child-resistant and has been designed with safety in mind. Supplements are only one tool towards wellness. People need to exercise and have healthy diets, then consume supplements to round out the gaps in their nutritional balance.
GD: With a consumer product like this, how do you plan to engage prospective buyers?
LP: We are seeking partnerships with big brands of supplements in the US.
GD: Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
LP: Our smart nutrition solution has been doing very well in the CES 2020 “Last Gadget Standing” competition. In fact, we are on the leader board and we would love it if your readers could vote for us! To vote, click HERE.
GD: Thank you, Leonid. It sounds like you and your team have developed a sensible approach to dietary supplements. We’ll see you at CES 2020 in Eureka Park, Booth #51701, Hall G, inside the Israeli Pavilion.