Fiber product offers new take on old standby

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images
Getty Images

Related tags: Dietary fiber, satiety, Psyllium fiber, Nutrition

A new fiber product called Bellway has generated interest from the investment community as it presents a new take on an old standby—psyllium seed husk.

The product is the brainchild of entrepreneur Max Dresse. Dresse has also been involved with supplement and food brands such as Aloha​, Hello Fresh and Freshly.

Solving the fiber shortfall

In his current venture, Dresse said he was aiming to solve a long standing problem in the American diet.

“We have found that 95% of Americans don’t get enough fiber,”​ Dresse said. “I was one of those.”

The health benefits of adequate dietary fiber intake have been known for many years.  In the early days it was simply about preventing constipation.   But even as early as 2003 it has been recognized that adequate fiber intake has other benefits, too, relating to the metabolites that arise from the fermentation of fiber in the colon.  Those benefits include lessening the risk of heart disease​.

“It’s why your doctor is telling you to take a fiber supplement,” ​Dresse said.

There is a longstanding category leader in the space—Metamucil.  The brand, which first hit the market in 1934, has manufactured by Procter & Gamble since 1985.

New take on the old standby

But it’s an old brand, aimed at an older demographic and using what Dresse characterized as a dated formulation approach.  Metamucil includes citric acid, a common synthetically produced industrial food additive, artificial colors and flavors, and also includes aspartame, an artificial sweetener.

“We use husks from organic psyllium.  It’s essentially a natural fiber supplement that doesn’t have any of the nasty artificial ingredients,”​ Dresse said.  The Bellway SKUs are flavored and sweetened with natural fruit powders and get an additional sweetness boost from monk fruit extract, a natural non nutritive sweetener, he said.

Bellway launched last week with funding from Five Four Ventures, a venture capital firm that spun out of a video production company led by Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Micheals.  It’s the first nutrition investment by the fund, which up to now has focused on the distribution of online content such as comedy specials, a pet video sharing site and a site that provides horoscopes and astrological information.  In addition to leading Bellway, Dresse is also a senior vice president in the VC firm.

Online launch makes customer engagement easier

Bellway is launching exclusively online to start, Dresse said.  It’s a mode he’s familiar with from his earlier ventures and it offers a startup some significant advantages.

“So 95% of Americans don’t get enough fiber, but how do you target a marketing campaign to 95% of the country?” ​Dresse said. 

“The beauty of starting a brand online is that we can do a lot more different things based on the data.  If you do Facebook ads or Google ads you can hyper target them toward each customer and talk about the product in a way that’s relevant to them,” ​he said.

“If you have cholesterol issue, for example, we can talk about the product’s benefits there. Fiber is also big for weight management,”​ Dresse added.

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