“We created an in-house appliance category that didn’t previously exist,” Ted Mills, co-founder and head of innovation at Tespo, told NutraIngredients-USA. “We don’t come from the dietary supplements industry, or the appliance industry, nor do we have a CPG background. We didn’t have any of the qualifications that you think we’d need, but that allowed us to think outside the box.”
The company is the brainchild of Mills and Jeff Linton (head of strategic vision and leadership). The pair met in 2013 at a time when Linton was caring for his mother and mother-in-law, and Linton observed that when a parent didn’t take their supplements there was a definite effect. So they began looking at liquid supplement systems to improve compliance and remove the laborious issue of swallowing pills.
Solutions to pill aversion – a very real issue for the industry with an estimated 38% of consumers reported to dislike taking pills – include the development of melts, shots, and, most noticeably, gummies. “Gummies really show just how dumbed-down the supplements industry can be to address pill aversion,” said Mills.
Mills and Linton started with a blank white board and listed what they wanted and didn’t want in a product. The “don’t want” list included fillers, binders, and other artificial ingredients. The “do want” list included the solution being a comprehensive product and completely recyclable.
“The best delivery is liquid so we looked at Keurig, but instead of focusing on a single serving we developed a 31 day system,” said Mills. “We were intrigued by the complete delivery system.”
The countertop Tespo dispenser, which retails for $129, uses a disc with 31 individual servings. A simple travel dispenser called the Tespo-Go is available for $20 and offers a hand-held/ manual method of dispensing.
The products launched in April and the consumer feedback to date has been “tremendous”, said Mills.
The company launched with five products: Women’s Essential (multivitamin and mineral with additional lutein, zeaxanthin and CoQ10); Men’s Essential (multivitamin and mineral with additional lutein, zeaxanthin and CoQ10); Children’s Essential (multivitamin and mineral with additional lutein and zeaxanthin); Energy and Focus. The range has expanded to include a sleep formulation, and a number of new products are launching soon, including a prenatal product, and condition-specific formulations for bariatric health, joint health, and hair, skin and nails.
“By the end of the year we will be up to 15, possibly 17, different products,” said Mills.
The formulations are supplied by DSM using Fortitech Premixes, he said. “We do use branded ingredients but we haven’t been marketing them. We will be modifying our product pages moving forward to show which branded ingredients our formulations contain.”
With the inspiration being the older consumer, it should come as no surprise that Tespo initially focused on the Boomer demographic, but that will expand as the company launches its pre-natal product, said Mills. The products retail predominantly through the gettespo.com website and a little bit through Amazon, he said.
The price of the product compares favourably with the cost per serving offered by stick packs or a 5-Hour Energy, for example. A 31-day serving of the energy product, for example, retails starting at $30, making it less than $1 per day.
While the company has not yet done a formal study, and therefore cannot document this, the feedback they have received would indicate that compliance has improved, said Mills.
So what next for Tespo? The company is working hard to build brand awareness, said Mills. “To get to the masses we need to expand, so we’re working to refine our supply chain, and how we source the dispenser,” he said. “We want to grow methodically and we’re laying the foundations for a strong Q4.”
The company has over 50 investors and has been through three rounds of funding: They are currently gearing up for a fourth round.
“I think we’ve been contacted by every major supplement company, and many have purchased our system,” noted Mills. “Some companies are evaluating this as a delivery system and working on other concepts, and we expect others are going to be doing this, so we need to get out in front of it and create a brand.”