The brand new company officially launched to the public on July 6 with the opening of its website, a portal where users can take a nutrition assessment test that will recommend what type of supplements may best benefit them.
At first glance, it’s clear that this Seattle-based company is competing in the same space as New York-based Care/Of, which also administers a health assessment, subscription service, and even personalized packaging with the customer’s name emblazoned on each single-serve pouch.
But what Vitamin Packs founder Jason Brown sees as the main differentiator is his company’s artificial intelligence, which is programmed with an algorithm that takes into consideration potential drug-interactions from whatever medication a customer is taking.
Artificial intelligence to personalize
“When you’re taking our questionnaire, we’re asking you about your lifestyle and what medications you’re taking,” Brown told NutraIngredients-USA. The questionnaire’s algorithm, named Sage, was created to be dynamic, changing prompts based on responses to previous questions.
Customers choose what medications they take from a pre-set list. Not all medications are in the assessment, as the company only included those with a known-history of interacting with the supplements or ingredients that are currently offered by Vitamin Packs.
“To create this algorithm, we have taken our doctors and nutritionists who have over 100,000 patient visits [combined], we’ve taken their information and leveraged it against third party research,” he added. According to the company’s website, the algorithm also has data from more than 10,000 peer-reviewed nutrition articles.
'Trillions of combinations'
After taking the questionnaire, customers are shown a list of recommended supplements based on their responses. There is no comprehensive list of all the supplement offered by the company on its website, but Brown said that there are about 70.
Once at the recommendation page, each supplement option has a complete page dedicated to information on the active ingredient, a profile of where it’s sourced from, as well as ingredient deck of the capsule or pill. From one test assessment, his reporter was recommended 12 different supplements which range from fermented ginseng to arginine with ornithine to evening primrose oil to apple pectin.
“The equipment we have can take any of those 70 by 70 by 70 by 70—so no two people will be the same, there are trillions of combination possibilities that is unique to each customer,” he added.
Inspired by a pre-Internet concept
Brown, who calls himself a serial entrepreneur, has been in the nutrition space since he founded Vitamin Advisor in the late 1990s. He started it after he was inspired by a prototype retail store that was a joint venture between Chicago-based Baxter Healthcare and GNC.
“They had created a custom packaging unit, pre-Internet, inside of a store. So I walked into this store and there was this incredibly cool idea—you sit down with a nutritionist, she takes your information, she programs it into a machine, and a pack comes out with your vitamins and your name printed on the packaging,” he said.
He connected with the Baxter president in charge of that unit to build it into an online concept, and then sold it in 2003 to Drugstore.com. But as personalization continued to trend late into the 2010s, Brown developed Vitamin Packs to feed this demand.
“Everyone has a unique diet, unique exercise level, maybe their own medication requirements or family health history—so with the way society is today, people want what they personally need,” he said.