Subscription supplement seller uses smart cap technology to drive compliance, reorders

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Photo courtesy of Stride Nutrition
Photo courtesy of Stride Nutrition
A new ecommerce based subscription supplement brand launches today with a unique feature: a smart cap technology that will drive compliance and will help manage reordering.

Stride Nutrition​, as the new service is called, is a subsidiary of Pillsy​, a development stage company that has brought a smart cap/app technology to market.

Smart phone connection

According to company co-founder Jeff LeBrun, the Pillsy cap connects to a smart phone app. The app records each time the bottle is opened to help drive compliance. 

LeBrun said his start in the nutrition business came with a project in graduate school at the University of Michigan. That led to the founding of a company called Algal Scientific, which developed a 1-3 beta glucan ingredient from algal cell walls that was ultimately sold to Kemin Nutrition​. In his new venture, LeBrun said the emphasis is more on the user experience rather than ingredient development. After all, if consumers don’t consistently take the product, it doesn’t matter much what’s in it.

“We started this company about four years ago called Pillsy. We started building a connected experience around the taking of pills. It’s more like the Alexa experience except for supplements and drugs,”​ he said.

The Pillsy cap is already being used by some medical technology companies, LeBrun said. With the new supplement service, the goal is to help develop positive habits.

“Everything we do is based on behavioral science. If you want to make a behavioral change, you need a trigger and you need positive feedback,”​ LeBrun said. 

Avoiding reorder pitfalls

According to Pillsy, the subscription ecommerce market has boomed in recent years​. Citing data from McKinsey, the company says the concept generated more than $2.6 billion in sales in 2016, which was up from $57 million in 2011.

One brake on even more robust growth is the fear consumers might have in getting locked into deliveries that don’t meet their day-to-day needs. It’s the phenomenon of bottles of wine piling up faster than they can (or perhaps ought to be) drunk. Or, for older consumers, it might be the memories of books of the month arriving after you forgot to cancel the order.

The smart aspect of the Pillsy cap will work around those issues, LeBrun said. Preventing unnecessary reorders would be especially important for products that have a certain shelf life. (Wine ages; supplements just go bad.)

The Pillsy cap/app will automatically track doses, send intelligent reminders if users forget to take their scheduled dose, and automatically order refills when it detects that there are fewer than 10 days’ worth of supply remaining. Subscribers will also be able to update dosage settings, view their dosage history and share information with family caregivers, as required.

“The cap will record how many times the bottle is opened. And it will trigger a reorder only when it’s needed,”​ he said.

The new service will launch with three products: A comprehensive multivitamin, an omega-3 fish oil offering and a probiotic that combines three strains with a FOS prebiotic and a mushroom extract to provide both gut health and immune system benefits.

Personalized nutrition application

LeBrun said his company should be viewed as more of a software development platform than as a hardware provider or finished goods marketer. The cap technology has already found interest from pharmacists and researchers, who view it as a better way to verify compliance than the use of questionnaires.  Future development of the Pillsy platform could include the use of personal biometric data, which could help drive a personalized nutrition positioning.  LeBrun said Stride Nutrition is both a proof of concept/private label brand play, and the company is open to partnering with other supplement brands.

“At the end of the day, people want to know what benefits they’re getting from the products they’re taking,”​ he said.

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