Sugar-free vitamin/hydration maker signs deal with Whole Foods

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images - Dougal Waters
©Getty Images - Dougal Waters

Related tags Multivitamin hydration sugar reduction

A startup with a mission to get the sugar out of multivitamins has managed to attract the attention of Whole Foods Markets, signing a new distribution deal.

The company, called Root’d, is the brainchild of California entrepreneur Adams Chimera.  Chimera cut his teeth in the supplements industry with a stints in sales at Rainbow Light and Nutranext, where he acted as senior director of private label as the latter organization went through its acquisition by Clorox.

Chimera said he’d noticed a trend during that time of increasing amounts of sugar showing up in vitamin and hydration products.  This was especially true of multivitamins offered in the from of gummies.

Chimera said he grants there are arguments to be made for improved compliance when products taste good and are pleasant to use.  After all, even the best multivitamin is useless if it stays in the bottle.

Vitamins, or candy?

But he said it’s a paradox to tout the health benefits of products that, by weight, have as much or more sugar as do many confectionary items.

“We saw this huge hole in the market.  When we’d look at these multivitamins we’d ask, why is there so much freaking sugar in there?” ​ Chimera told NutraIngredients-USA.

“When you look at some individual cases, it’s 90% plus sugar by weight,”​ he said. “You are basically eating pure sugar.”

Chimera said he also saw a place for a hydration product without sugar, too.   The case of sugar in these products is somewhat different from for gummy vitamins. There is a physiological argument to be made via the glucose transporter, which  helps speed the absorption of water.  That was the thinking behind the original Gatorade formula.  

But Chimera said it’s obvious that many servings of Gatorade or other sugar laden sports drinks are consumed merely as beverages, not as part of fueling during a bout of long, hot exercise. 

There too, he said, he saw a gap in the market to offer healthy hydration without the sugar.  So he decided to offer the two together, in the Root’d line of multivitamin + electrolytes drink mixes.  The products contain a full suite vitamins plus sodium and potassium.  They also feature a ‘superfoods mix’ that includes beetroot, turmeric and other constituents as well as a dose of a Lactobacillus coagulans probiotic.

Avoiding comparison with a competitor

Chimera said prototypes of the products were made with an effervescent quality and without.  Focus groups found that consumers strongly preferred the effervescent version.

But that proved to be a hurdle all its own. The Root’d offerings are lightly sweetened with erithrytol and monk fruit extract, but hiding the off notes of high doses of B vitamins (one of the reasons for all that sugar in the products of Chimera’s competitors) presented a special challenge.

Chimera said that flavor masking would best be accomplished with citrus flavors, but his team chose to go with a more difficult berry flavor for a specific reason.

“We purposely did not choose an orange flavoring because we feared that consumers would expect to taste like Emergen-C, meaning very sweet,”​ he said.

“We tell consumers to expect the product to taste tart,” ​he added.

The product’s unique positioning caught the attention of Whole Foods Markets.  Chimera said the company has a deal to stock in the products in about 400 Whole Foods locations, or about a third of the company’s overall store footprint.  The product is also for sale online via a number of platforms such as Amazon and GNC.

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