North Castle Partners made a growth investment in Marina del Ray-based SmartyPants Vitamins, with CircleUp Growth Fund as a co-investor. This represents North Castle’s eighth investment in the nutritional supplements industry. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Launched in 2010, SmartyPants makes and distributes GMO-free gummy vitamins and supplements for children and adults. Products are free of high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, sweeteners, flavors or preservatives. Before the new additions, SmartyPants’ core brands included Kids Complete, Kids Fiber, Adult Complete, Adult Fiber and PreNatal vitamins.
Addressing the ‘complexity’ problem
SmartPants CEO and cofounder Courtney Nichols Gould said the company was aiming to solve a problem with their first formulations.
“We came in not as a vitamin company that said we ought to get into chewables,” Gould told NutraIngredients-USA. “You could already get chewables. Rather, our gamble was to see if we could find a way to address complexity. “
For Gould, “complexity” refers to the many different protocols for using supplements. Some to be taken with food, some without, some at various times around meals. Her goal was to create a high quality product that would be easy and enjoyable to use, a combination that would drive compliance.
“It’s more than a multivitamin. We are trying to create something that is baseline comprehensive and in a format that people will like to use. We follow a philosophy of good works (the company is a contributor to Vitamin Angels), good ingredients and good taste,” she said.
The new women’s formula includes 15 essential nutrients, plus EPA and DHA from encapsulated fish oil (SmartyPants uses DSM’s Meg3 encapsulated ingredient). The product includes methylfolate, the most bioavailable form of the ingredient, and also adds in vitamin K2 and CoQ10. The men’s product omitspeoplethe folate and K2 but adds in lycopene, zinc and selenium for prostate health.
Hard choices on ingredients
As with any multi-ingredient formula, Gould said the products can’t be all things to all people.
“We are focused on the places where we are seeing the most common deficiencies and we run the formulas past our scientific advisory board. There are cases where we might have a higher dosage of a given ingredient than you would see in a typical multivitamin. We are looking at the things that people have the most challenge in getting from their diet consistently,” she said.
But also as with any multi-ingredient formula, Gould said some hard choices had to be made. Affordability is always a concern. The amount of EPA and DHA (83 and 67 mg respectively) does not approach that contained in a typical standalone omega-3 supplement, for example, though it does come close to the single serving levels of most of the krill oil products. The idea there was to give consumers a baseline intake value in cases where they might not be getting any omega-3s, Gould said. In any event, she said the key is being open and honest with consumers about how the products were put together.
“Transparency is a word that we have had as a core value even before it started being used in industry. We really do want to help change the reputation that the industry might have with people based on what they’ve read recently in the media,” Gould said.
“You want to have a philosophy from which you are making those choices about ingredients. And then you want to be clear in communicating that to consumers,” she said.