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AOR founder: ‘I believe that ‘Made in Canada’ is a selling point’

By Adi Menayang contact

- Last updated on GMT

The Canadian edge: In conversation with AOR CEO Dr Traj Nibber

Related tags: Canada, Health canada, Health claims, Health claims regulation

Dr Traj Nibber, trained as a pharmacist, moved from the UK to Canada to start a pharmacy in 1989. Realizing that it’s hard to compete against the big chains, he shifted focus to supplements.
Traj Image
Dr Traj Nibber, founder and CEO of Advanced Orthomolecular Research.

“These pharmacies at that time, in 1990s Canada, they were selling tobacco. They stocked contact lens solutions and towels and cosmetics, but very little shelf space was devoted to supplements,”​ he told us.

“I thought I’ll make a pharmacy exclusively for supplements because this was one area that big pharmacies just weren’t catering to.”

He did away with drugs and other traditional pharmaceutical items in his pharmacy and stocked it full of supplements but received feedback from some customers (primarily healthcare practitioners that were passing on supplements to patients) about the fillers used in the products he stocked.

So Dr Nibber decided to start his own supplement brand. That, in short, was how Advanced Orthomolecular Research, or AOR, was born.

Fast forward more than two decades later to today, the brand has hundreds of products sold mainly in independent natural product chains (“They’re our bread and butter”) ​and through healthcare practitioners.

To go to market (and stay on the market) in Canada’s supplement space isn’t as easy as it is stateside. Each product needs an official Natural Product Number, which Canada’s health authority grants only after an assessment of a product’s safety, efficacy, and quality. A search on Health Canada’s natural products database returns 476 active licenses​ held by AOR.

“I think the Canadian model, in terms of product claims, is a great model. If you can substantiate your claims, why not? After all, our industry should be competing with the pharma industry, and pharma is allowed to make claims, why can’t we?”​ he said.

US expansion

Dr Nibber thinks his company and brand has an edge, thanks to the ‘Made in Canada’ factor. “I do believe that it is a selling point​,” he said.

That’s what made him eager and confident to finally enter the US market a little more than two years ago. The 2019 Natural Products Expo West Show last month was the company’s third time exhibiting stateside as it focuses on ramping up brand awareness and distribution.

The company now has a warehouse in New Jersey and seven people in its US team. It is also supported by about 72 brokers. “They do a lot of the heavy lifting for us,”​ Dr Nibber said.

The US has a much more crowded supplement market, but that’s why it’s so appetizing to Dr Nibber.

“Our products really are ideally suited for the US market, which, I believe, is the world leader of being at the forefront,”​ he said.

AOR partners with universities and invests in research to study novel ingredients and different health benefits. On its website, the company claims that It was first to bring to market D-Ribose and R Lipoic Acid supplements, in 1998 and 1999 respectively.

A search on PubMed, Google Scholar, and Scopus for “Advanced Orthomolecular Research” returned 57 results, many of them were studies on the safety and efficacy of specific AOR products. This investment in research is what Dr Nibber believe will make his brand stand out in the US.

“I believe the US market, the customer base that we cater to, are very accepting to clinical research and I believe they look forward to it,”​ he said.

Diving into the DNA-kit market

Canadian-supplement-maker-AOR-launches-retail-ready-DNA-test-kit_wrbm_large

At this year's Natural Products Expo West show, AOR announced the launch of its MyBlueprint DNA test kit. Dr Traj Nibber, founder and CEO of the company, described the product as a 'retail-ready DNA test kit.'

“Typically, most DNA test kits are designed for the physician,”​​ Dr Nibber said.

“This is designed for the retailer or a physician or naturopath that can offer it to a consumer. The customer takes it [using] an easy cheek swab, sends it off themselves, then they get their results through an e-portal,”​​ he added.

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