Pills no more: Rootine turns packets of pellets into hyper-personalized multivitamins
Like many other personalized nutrition supplement companies, Rootine assesses what type of nutritional supplement to recommend to users based on results from a lifestyle questionnaire and several biomarkers.
In Rootine’s case, the company looks at both a user’s DNA and blood level data in addition to lifestyle questionnaire results. Users can order a DNA test kit or upload existing DNA test results, and for blood level data, users upload results from the most recent blood test they have taken from their primary doctor or other external healthcare services.
What differentiates Rootine from other personalized nutrition supplement companies is the form of the supplement—instead of pills, capsules, gummies, or powder, it offers multivitamin and mineral sachets of microbeads fortified with nutrients and coated with natural beeswax, which users can subscribe to for $85 a month.
Users can swallow them with water, stir them into a smoothie, or sprinkle them onto breakfast items like a parfait or porridge.
“Other companies that do personalization, essentially what they do is, depending on your lifestyle, they give you a red pill or green pill,” Daniel Wallerstorfer, PhD, co-founder and co-CEO of Rootine, told NutraIngredients-USA.
“But we realized that one person might need 580mg of calcium, and another person might need 585mg. We tried to figure out what’s the best technology to make it so personalized that we can create any recipe,” he said
Powders and beverages are a popular delivery format for supplements these days, but Dr Wallerstorfer said that liquids are unstable. “It’s very difficult to get a long shelf-life and they start reacting with each other,” he said.
“The microbeads have some biological advantages. They are slow release, which means they are releasing the nutrients over 12 hours, which is a more natural way of absorbing nutrients,” he explained.
The format also prevents different nutrients that may interact or ‘block’ each other if fortified together from doing so, he added.
A focus on nutrients
Only 18 vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients go into Rootine’s personalized nutrition equation, less than what companies like Care/Of or Persona offer.
What can go into a personalized Rootine sachet?
The nutrients that go into a Rootine sachet listed on the company's website:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D3
- Alpha Lipic Acid
- Folic Acid
- Vitamin E
- CoEnzyme Q10
The main difference is that Rootine doesn’t offer botanical extracts. “We use nutrients that are quite standard because there’s already quite a lot of studies about them,” he said.
The resulting product is a traditional multivitamin and mineral. But what’s new about Rootine’s approach, other than the delivery format, is that the company can tailor dosing according to a subscriber’s genetics and blood plasma levels.
“We know that genetics influences the need for certain nutrients,” he explained. Subscribers can access PubMed-listed studies that support Rootine’s formulation strategy on the company’s website.
Take CoQ10 for example. “It’s a very popular, very expensive, but also very powerful nutrient,” he argued. “It actually does work, it fights free radicals. However, you need a certain gene to activate this for it to have any effect, and 6% of the population don’t have this gene,” he said.
Another is a genetic variation that makes people absorb more iron than the average person, which may cause hemochromatosis. “So it’s very important to not give them additional iron, we’ll completely exclude it from the product for them.”
Help from an accelerator
Rootine is currently in beta mode, serving a smaller consumer base before an official launch to the public in the coming months.
Its route to market process is boosted with the help of business accelerator Techstars NYC. Membership to a Techstars NYC cohort is extremely competitive. “1,500 companies apply and only 10 are taken,” Dr Wallerstorfer said.
Based in Austria, Dr Wallerstorfer now travels between Salzburg and New York City after Rootine was admitted into Techstars NYC’s most recent batch in the winter of 2018. It follows the footsteps of the accelerator’s notable alumni, such as booming fitness membership program ClassPass and prescription delivery company PillPack, which Amazon acquired for about US$1 billion in cash in 2018.
New York was where he was introduced to his new co-CEO and co-founder, Rachel Soper Sanders, an MBA graduate of Harvard Business School, by a mutual mentor who used to direct Techstars.
Sanders had started a health and wellness company before and has experience in healthcare investment banking. She handles the operations, while Dr Wallerstorfer focuses on the product and science, which he has developed in the past three years.
“I have been an entrepreneur all my life,” Dr Wallerstorfer said. With his background in biotechnology, he started a genetic testing company for preventive care after he completed his studies. Later on, the original concept of Rootine was developed in Austria, based on his work with his genetic testing company.
He still operates a lab and manufacturing company in Austria, managed separately from Rootine, but it manufactures the microbead supplements Rootine will deliver to its subscribers and can also administer the genetic tests if users have not done one before.
For now, Rootine is focusing on US consumers. “We had over 1,500 paying customers in Europe when we were testing the product, but now we’ve decided to focus on just the US,” Sanders said.