Q&A: Well Traveled on developing next-gen immune support for the road

By Asia Sherman

- Last updated on GMT

© Image courtesy of Well Traveled
© Image courtesy of Well Traveled

Related tags startups Immunity branded ingredients better-for-you Gut microbiome

San-Diego supplement startup Well Traveled launches its first product this month, an immune support powder made with clean, plant-based, clinically proven ingredients that activate immunity in the gut to help the modern traveler stay well on the road.

NutraIngredients-USA caught up with Well Traveled Founder Patrick Firlik, an avid traveler and health enthusiast armed with a business degree from the Kellogg School of Management, who talked about effectively addressing the pain points of travel, targeting immunity with better-for you, next-generation formulations and prioritizing transparency in the business plan.

What inspired you to launch Well Traveled and enter the health and wellness industry?

PF: As much as I love travel, it’s debilitating. I experienced the feeling of being worn down and getting sick a lot. On business trips, I’d have early mornings, long days and late nights working, often with added stress. On longer leisure trips, I don’t eat, exercise and sleep as well as I do at home, compounded with time-zone changes, long days and unfamiliar environments. I never felt my best after several days of being away from home. I tried taking sugary, artificial immune support products like Emergen-C and Airborne, but they didn’t seem to do much. I’m also a health enthusiast and didn’t like knowing I was putting all these added sugars, additives and synthetic vitamins in my body.

I wished there was something healthier and more effective and knew I wasn’t the only traveler experiencing these pain points. This led me to launch Well Traveled.

What are the pain points of travel that Well Traveled seeks to address?

Disrupted routines, stress, sickness, dehydration, low energy, lost focus, suboptimal diet and poor sleep are common pain points when traveling. Well Traveled addresses most of these by boosting immunity which has a myriad of health benefits, including helping you prevent and recover from sickness and feel more energized and alert.

What was your path to market? 

My first priority was hiring a nutrition consultant with experience and knowledge of the supplements and wellness space, as I don’t have background there. He helped me formulate the product and made many helpful connections to make the product a reality.

We raised an initial pre-seed round to help fund our first manufacturing run and launch. We will soon be raising a larger seed round to fund scaling and growth. I first started working on Well Traveled in January 2022, so it took a little over a year to bring it to market!

What market trends informed your product? How did you select the ingredients in your formula?

Patrick Firlirk
Patrick Firlik, founder at Well Traveled

Immune health supplements and natural health products are rapidly growing markets, projected to grow over the next several years at CAGRs of 11.3% and 6.5%, respectively; 66% of global consumers surveyed in 2022 say they have plans to address their immune health over the next 12 months. Even after COVID, immune health is still top of mind for consumers, and they want better-for-you, natural products.                                

Eighty percent of your immune system is in the gut, so the gut is the cornerstone of the immune system. We knew we wanted ingredients that provided gut-mediated immune activation, which is not the typical mechanism used by immunity products. BeniCaros​ and Immuse​ were the perfect choice. These are cutting-edge, patented, award-winning ingredients with incredible clinical results. We also wanted time-tested, proven vitamins and minerals, so we used plant-based forms of Vitamin C, Vitamin D3 and Zinc. 

How does Well Traveled immunity differentiate itself from other immunity products in this space?

Well Traveled is more effective and healthier than leading immunity products. Our patented, award-winning prebiotic and postbiotic ingredients create a novel method of immune activation in the gut, the cornerstone of the immune system, and are backed by incredible clinical trial results. We use plant-based vitamins instead of synthetic vitamins so your body can absorb them better. No added sugars or bad additives.

The combination of prebiotic and postbiotic ingredients from two very different sources with the ability to strengthen immune function prior to a challenge, plus plant-based nutrients to support this up-regulation of immune function, is a novel method of action that hasn’t been seen before in the immunity space.

Why did you choose the powder format?

Powder, when mixed with liquid, is absorbed immediately by your body unlike pills, capsules, tablets or gummies. We wanted to make a fast-acting product. Mixing powder with water also hydrates you which most travelers don't do enough while they're on the road.

What is your go-to-market strategy? Where will Well Traveled be sold? ​ 

Well Traveled will initially be sold direct to consumer on our website. We are actively in discussions to enter retail: natural supermarkets, airport stores and hotel sundry shops. Amazon is also a likely channel at some point in the future.

We also see a huge benefit for companies that provide Well Traveled to their employees who travel regularly. The data suggests a strong ROI for investing in employee health and wellness, and younger business travelers are demanding it. Targeting companies with employees who travel is another strategy for us.

Are there plans to launch other supplements or branded Well Traveled products?

Absolutely! The Well Traveled long-term vision is to serve all of the needs of the traveler. Immunity is just the beginning. We expect to launch other products for hydration, energy, sleep, relaxation, focus and nutrition in the future. 

Do you have advice to other startups looking to launch products in this space?

I think the supplements industry gets a bad reputation because there is a lot of shady activity, and many companies aren’t transparent with consumers about what’s in the product. They hide harmful ingredients at the bottom of the label, distract consumers with buzzwords and health claims, and sometimes make statements that are downright false.

Well Traveled has made a conscious effort to be as transparent as possible with our customers. We don’t hide anything about our product because we’re proud of what we’ve built, and we stand by it. Well Traveled is a premium product because we’ve chosen to use the highest-quality ingredients. We care about the health of our customers, and consumers who value their health will recognize this.

So, my advice for any startup launching products in the space is to always be honest and transparent with customers. It’s the right thing to do and will be best for the business in the long run.

Immune Activator is formulated with branded ingredients BeniCaros (a prebiotic carrot fiber extracted from upcycled carrot pomace) and Immuse (a postbiotic backed by 30 published studies including 15 human trials), as well as Vitamin C (from acerola cherry), Vitamin D3 (from algae) and Zinc (from guava leaf). It is sold as one-time purchase or subscription of 10 packets ($30), 30 packets ($80) or 90 packets ($225).

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