From matcha latte MCT powder to peach flavored betahydroxybutyrate (BHB), dietary supplements in Perfect Keto’s portfolio were designed to help its users adhere to the fashionable high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet, familiarly referred to as ‘keto.’
In short, when following the keto diet, an individual’s carb intake is so low that the body enters a state of ketosis, which is when it burns off fat as a source of energy. In this state, the body also creates organic compounds called ketones that energize in the absence of carbohydrates.
But Gustin, who has training as a chiropractor, was quick to mention that, though trendy, the diet is not a fad. “I’ve never seen anything in nutrition, or within what people call a trend or fad diet, that has as much research as the ketogenic diet does,” he told us.
Modern physicians introduced the diet as a treatment for epilepsy in the 1920s, and to this day, hospitals and clinical nutritionists regularly administer it hand-in-hand with medication for pediatric epilepsy patients.
Its popularity in the mainstream is fairly recent. Looking at online searches, US consumers started profusely Googling for ‘keto’ in December 2017, the typical time for spikes in diet and wellness related terms. Searches for keto peaked last month, suggesting that the diet is top of mind for more US consumers than it has ever been, largely prompted by endorsement from celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and athletes like Tim Tebow.
Keto has more staying power than other diets
Online searches for keto eclipsed the similarly low-carb and grain-free Paleo Diet starting in early March, and now enjoys more searches from curious consumers in the US than the term ‘Paleo’ has ever had.
“The big difference here is that Paleo is an ideal, whereas Keto is a measurable state,” Gustin said. “In Paleo, you can have 15 people with different dogmas about whether [a food item] is paleo or not,” which doesn’t happen with the ketogenic diet, he added.
Searching for Keto
In fact, users can use urine strips (a product within Perfect Keto’s portfolio) to check whether or not they are in a state of ketosis. Meanwhile, there’s no such thing as a ‘state of Paleo.’
The supplement industry was quick to embrace the trend. Innova Market Insights, a market research company, reported that in 2013, the supplement space made up 100% of all keto product launches, compared to 33.3% in 2017. The decline is only in terms of share of categories, as everything from cereals to ice cream to candies now come in a keto-friendly version.
Supplements still make up the majority of keto product launches and retailer The Vitamin Shoppe is highlighting the trend by creating a shop-within-a-shop in all its locations nationwide called Keto HQ, a dedicated space for keto products.
The entrepreneur chiropractor
Gustin opened up a clinic in the Bay Area after completing chiropractic school. His practice also offered services in sports medicine and rehab, as well as functional medicine. He administered lab tests to look at his patients’ markers for diabetes, gut problems, and more.
“One of the common threads that I noticed was that, if people did not focus on nutrition, then none of the problems would get better, no matter how much you’re rehabbed or what things they’re being prescribed,” he said.
It inspired him to shift the focus of his practice to nutrition. He realized that there were only so many people he could help through his practice, and starting a business and selling supplements could help him cast a wider net.
Perfect Keto, headquartered in Austin, was founded in 2016, at the eve of the current keto craze. This was also a time of sudden uptick in new product development within the keto space. According to data from Innova Market Insights, there were more than 500 products launched with ketogenic claims globally in 2017, compared to 300 products in 2016 and less than 100 products in 2015.
Perfect Keto sells direct-to-consumer online. “We are primarily e-commerce, but in the fall, we’ll be in several different stores with several new food products,” he said.
The company uses content marketing in the form of blog posts and recipes on its website, which currently generates 10 million unique monthly visitors, many of them engaging through comments and social media. This is one of the main reasons why they’ve focused on e-commerce. “Once you move away from direct-to-consumer, you lose that relationship,” he said.
“As far as growth, year-over-year, we’ve had a 700% increase in sales,” between July 2017 and July 2018, he added.