‘Let’s face it, the supplements market is somewhat dysfunctional…’
Baze readies for 2020 European debut after €6m cash injection
“We are planning to launch in early 2020 in Europe,” CEO and co-founder Philipp Schulte told NutraIngredients on a recent visit to Baze’s Berlin HQ.
“We are in discussions with European supplement makers and there is a great level of interest.”
The firm’s activities have recently been bolstered by a €6m cash injection led by Wisconsin-based supplements giant, Nature’s Way.
Despite its European origins and base, Baze launched in the US first via its Boston office because it reckoned the personalised nutrition market was more advanced there, but Schulte observed Europe was moving ahead, especially with the likes of Nestlé investing heavily in the sector.
“Europe has been a few years behind but it is catching up fast and we are very excited about launching here.”
He said the firm had received encouraging enquiries from the likes of China, Australia and Japan but was focused on getting the European launch right before looking to Asia or anywhere else.
Baze to gain from Nature’s Way
Schulte said the Nature’s Way deal was not exclusive and so Baze was free to negotiate with other supplement manufacturers including those it is in talks with ahead of its European debut. It uses four manufacturers in the US.
“There is nothing that ties Baze to anything – we are of course using some of their products but we are also using other products. What is important to us is just to get the highest quality products. But we can leverage their knowhow in the market.”
Baze could learn much from Nature’s Way’s commitment to high quality supplements.
“We don’t really use their distribution network because they are in the retail space and we are more in personalised nutrition, but the real collaboration is in quality. It’s really amazing what they invest in quality. For us quality is super important and they can really help us grow up in that space far quicker than we could do on our own.”
“We think we are onto something, we have great traction, and as with Nature’s Way we are always looking for the right partners to bring us to the next level. We are very open to consider any options that bring us closer to making this vision a reality.”
It is developing partnerships in areas like gyms offering Baze in their personal training and other packages; insurance companies offering rebates for Baze users and companies offering it to their employees to boost productivity and workplace wellbeing.
Fixing the broken supplements market
Schulte believes Baze is ‘on to something’ because of the relative frequency in which regular, non-personalised supplementation fails to do what it says on the tin – namely improving health outcomes.
“Let’s face it, the supplements market is somewhat dysfunctional; it’s not always delivering the best health outcomes,” he said. “There is a constant stream of studies saying that supplementation hasn’t worked here, it hasn’t worked there. It’s not working for so many people. Fixing the process of supplementation by basing it on what you actually need is a big driver here at Baze.”
The competitive space
Schulte praised other sector start-ups like US-based CareOf and Persona (now owned by Nestlé Health Sciences) for doing a good job of building exposure for personalised nutrition and customised supplement solutions. But he observed those firms were based on user responses to lifestyle questionnaires as opposed to blood data.
“The important thing is that the personalised approach is done right. Our core belief is that if you combine evidence with actionability then you get health impact. And the best way to establish the evidence is in the blood and then get the supplements to address those deficits.”
“That’s the core: The right data. Interpreted correctly. Easy to act on.”
What does the data say?
After collating a year’s worth of data from users typically testing themselves at home every three months for eight nutrients, Schulte said deficiencies were eliminated in about 75% of cases. Isn’t that kind of success going to quickly reduce Baze’s user base?
“Most people’s deficits are down to diet and lifestyle, so while we are happy with the success, we see that most people still require a maintenance dose of supplements to keep in their optimum range.”
“If you really want to improve your nutrient status it should be an ongoing, dynamic process.”
How Baze works:
- After an 8-hour fast, home user takes a blood sample with Baze’s golf ball-sized blood sample extraction unit to determine levels of vitamins B12, D and E, omega-3, magnesium, copper, zinc and selenium.
- Home user sends blood sample to Baze’s lab partner for analysis (Baze pays postage).
- Home user fills out questionnaire about nutrition goals.
- Dietitian-curated, customised, monthly food supplement package sent to home user along with personalised nutrition report.
- Baze recommends repeating process after three months.
Normal versus optimal limits of nutrients in the blood
There has long been debate among nutritionists and regulators and industry about whether recommended nutrient levels should be based on the prevention of disease or, more optimistically, the promotion of optimum health and wellness. It’s a schism Baze is all too aware of.
“There are two levels we are looking at. The first is what is considered the normal level of a nutrient in the blood – we use the classic biomarkers accepted by bodies like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
But the interesting thing is that for most of the nutrients there is a lot of established and emerging evidence about what is optimum. So our science team goes through the literature to establish the optimum range in addition to the normal range.”
Supplements versus foods
Baze, whose users are typically over-30 and pretty evenly split gender-wise, is currently all about supplement solutions but whole food recommendations have not been ruled out.
“Supplements will always play an important role because for many people it is the easiest way to get a given nutrient. But then again we want to provide people with options to get their nutrients including, say, the customised shopping basket from Whole Foods or some other retailer. Foods could be part of it one day.”
This could help solve one of the issues Baze has encountered – compliance. As with any dietary or lifestyle regime, people can struggle to stick with it day-in-day-out.
“People are forgetting to take their supplements and we are working very keenly on some new methods to help people comply to the programme. It’s a challenge. If we can solve it, the 75% success rate would be even higher.”