Zenwise Health founder: ‘E-commerce lets us be nimble’

By Adi Menayang contact

- Last updated on GMT

According to Zenwise Health's CEO and founder, AJ Patel, the company's enzyme supplement is the most popular.
According to Zenwise Health's CEO and founder, AJ Patel, the company's enzyme supplement is the most popular.

Related tags: Direct to consumer, Nutrition, Supplements, e-commerce

The Florida-headquartered supplement brand Zenwise Health has had triple-digit growth in revenue year-over-year continuously since it started in 2014. Founder AJ Patel attributed this to the nimbleness of being an online-only brand.

The 30-year-old has spent a decade building experience in e-commerce. In addition to Zenwise Health​, he is also CEO and founder of two other brands: Pet care brand Zesty Paws​ and skin care brand InstaNatural​, which helped Patel gain recognition as “Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year” in Florida by Big Four accounting firm Ernst & Young back in 2016.

​[E-commerce] gives us a huge advantage over other, bigger players—online is not their core focus or core strength,” ​he told us. “We can be really nimble. If a consumer doesn’t like a product, we can change it on the fly, instead of, say, testing the merchandising, then getting approval from the buyer, then spending six months on R&D and stuff like that.”

“We react to real life feedback,”​ he added.

In four years, Patel’s entrepreneurial endeavors combined have helped him generate over $100 million in revenue.

CEO and founder of Zenwise Health AJ Patel.

What do his brands have in common? In addition to online only, they’re also direct to consumer, a channel which is gaining wider appeal. Many of the personalized nutrition start-ups gaining traction, like Vitamin Packs​ and Care/Of​, are direct-to-consumer.

Another example is The Clorox Company’s acquisition of Nutranext​ earlier this year. During Clorox’s Q3 earnings call earlier this month, CEO Benno O. Dorer mentioned​ Nutranext’s direct-to-consumer brands as part of its appeal for an acquisition.

At a time when brick-and-mortar retailers like GNC and Vitamin Shoppe continue to post either losses or tepid growth during their earnings calls, even shuttering hundreds of stores​, Patel said he sees e-commerce as the future and he isn’t planning to expand to brick-and-mortar anytime soon.

“Amazon’s growing 40% year-over-year, as opposed to ​[brick-and-mortar] retailers, where people are high-fiving over 3 to 5% growth,” ​he said.

Shifting focus to branded ingredients

Patel started Zenwise Health at the end of 2014, the eve of the high-profile probe on dietary supplements​ spearheaded by recently disgraced New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Patel said that, at the time, the category had a reputation of being ‘dirty.’

“Trust was at an all-time low,” ​he said. “I saw the market in terms of building a brand with quality ingredients and transparency.”

The product portfolio includes supplements in multiple categories, from digestive support to prenatal to keto diet products. To formulate the products, the brand uses the help of a dietary supplement consultancy firm as well as contract manufacturers.

When Patel forayed into supplements, he didn’t think much about branded ingredients. But as he continued to build expertise in the category and the science around branded ingredients, he said “we’re a fan of it.”

Branded products in Zenwise Health’s products include Compound Solutions’ goBHB and TeaCrine, as well as Aker BioMarine’s Superba Boost krill oil and Organic Technologies’ AlaskOmega.

“Almost everything we’re doing now, we’re being very conscious about how we bring credible science into our products,” ​he added.

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