The company has a suite of products using the gel delivery system, branded as Microgel, that will now be distributed by KeHE, which is he largest, pure play distributor of natural & organic, specialty, and fresh products to more than 30,000 natural food stores, chain and independent grocery stores, ecommerce retailers and other specialty product retailers throughout North America. KeHE is an employee-owned, B Corporation, with over 5,500 employees.
HealthyCell founder Douglas Giampapa says his company’s differentiator is its delivery system, which he says boosts bioavailability of his company’s line of supplements, branded as Focus+Recall, REM Sleep, Bioactive Multi, Vegan Essentials, and Immune Super Boost.
Tests show absorption hurdles for competing products
Giampapa said tests his company had sponsored at New England University during the development process showed that competing multivitamins and other supplements when dissolved left a residue of sand-like particles. The relatively large nature of these particles limits the uptake of the bioactives they contain before they are excreted, he maintained.
By contrast, the system he developed houses much small packets of actives within a proprietary gel matrix. That matrix consists of acacia gum, soluble fiber, citrus pectin. Giampapa said its more natural alternative to some other gel-like delivery modes and has a prebiotic function as well.
Taste has been a hurdle
Giampapa said while he believes the microgel delivery mode offers absorption advantages, it does come with challenges, too. Many supplement ingredients taste bad, and with the advent of sports gels and other similar products, consumers expect a gel product to taste good and have a pleasant mouthfeel. They might be less willing to put up with bad taste than consumers of some of the popular shot products seem to be.
“One of our biggest challenges has been taste. With tablets or capsules you don’t have to worry about that. It has been a real marriage of art and science for our food chemists to make these products appealing,” Giampapa said.
“For our multivitamin that’s out now, I’d give the taste about a 7 but we are working on this all of the time and for our new production run I’d give it a nine. Our sleep product started at about a 4 or a 5 and now I’d give it about a 7,” he said.
HealthyCell is privately held, but Giamapa did say growth has been strong. With the new distribution deal he said the sky’s the limit.
“We have had 100% sales growth this year over last year and I would expect that in the coming year we could at the very minimum we could do a 5x multiple of what we are doing now. At that point the limiting factor will be how much cash flow we have and how much credit we can raise, and whatever supply constraints we might have,” he said.