By Dan Shomon
America has come a long way since the consensus piece of nutritional advice was, “An apple a day will keep the doctor away.”
The buzzwords now are “natural foods,” “organic,” and “nutritional supplements.” And the supplements and natural products industries aren’t just companies such as Herbalife. The growth is explosive:
- Over the last decade, sales of vitamins, minerals, and nutritional and herbal supplements (VMHS) have surged and many new companies have entered the space. Globally, according to McKinsey, the market is now valued at $82 billion, with roughly 28 percent of that in the U.S., where sales increased by approximately $6 billion between 2007 and 2012. Growth is expected to remain strong through 2017 – between 5 and 6 percent a year both globally and in the United States.
- Meanwhile, the Organic Trade Association released statistics in May that organic sales in the U.S. totaled a new record of $49.4 billion in 2017, up 6.4% from the previous year and reflecting new sales of nearly $3.5 billion. The organic food market hit $45.2 billion in sales, also breaking through to a new record for an increase of 6.4%. Sales of organic non-food products rose by 7.4% to $4.2 billion, setting another new benchmark, the association said.
- The U.S. natural foods and organic products industry sales grew 6.5 percent to $207 billion in 2017, according to the New Hope Network, the premiere digital marketplace for these products.
Monheit has over 20 years of experience in the natural products and dietary supplement industry, with over 15 years in digital media. Monheit has participated in dozens of speaking engagements across four continents. With a background in biopharma and biotechnology, and as general manager of a contract research and analytical lab, Monheit, in 1999, co-founded NPIcenter, which grew over the subsequent eight years, to be the largest online media enterprise in the North American natural products industry. Selling that to Penton Media’s New Hope Natural Media in 2006, Monheit joined Penton/New Hope as digital media director, ingredient portfolio manager, market leader and ultimately Executive Director of Strategic Business Development.
Taking on the role of General Manager, U.S., with British-based William Reed Business Media, Monheit, over three years, introduced two new annual conferences to the U.S. (Food Vision and Probiota) and was responsible for a trade show launch (The Healthy & Natural Show) in Chicago in May of 2016. Monheit had responsibility for all of William Reed’s activities in the Americas, including FoodNavigator-USA, NutraIngredients-USA, as well as Pharma and Cosmetics publications, in addition to international partnerships and growth projects.
So what are some of the fastest growing startup companies in these industries? Monheit laid out a few of the key growth areas.
Bone broth companies
Gwyneth Paltrow and Kobe Bryant swear by the nutritional qualities of bone broth, a stock made primarily from the bones and connective tissue of animals or fish. According to the nutritional news Web site projectnosh.com, proponents highlight the benefits of the broth’s collagen and cartilage content which the authors say lead to healthy bones and skin. Supporters also say bone broth can prevent or relieve osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and other bone- or skin-related diseases.
In 2016, Ancient Nutrition was founded to exclusively focus on bone broth protein and collagen supplements. According to Fast Company magazine, Ancient Nutrition has since become the number two ranking protein supplement within the $37 billion U.S. supplement industry. In March, the company announced it had received $103 million in funding from a group of over 100 investors, led by private equity firms and even including Jillian Michaels (host of NBC’s The Biggest Loser).
“If you are used to that palate of a sodium intense soup, then you probably won’t like bone broth,” Monheit said. “But if you’re looking for something that’s lightly fortified that has nice consistency to it, it actually works really, really well.”
Scientific evidence shows a strong connection between chronic diseases and inflammation. Inflammation is most commonly rooted in the gut, where around 70 percent of our immune system resides. Scientists say our food choices result in oxidative stress, setting the stage for inflammatory ailments such as depression, anxiety, brain fog, obesity and more. The health of your gut directly impacts the health of your brain, experts say.
The Global Prebiotics Association, run by Monheit and his Trust Transparency partners, raises awareness and education of the benefits and science supporting prebiotics and works with government groups, the healthcare community and industry.
“Our activities for the association is to ensure that there is a common, easy to understand definition of prebiotics,” Monheit said. “I don’t know if you remember when probiotics were just emerging on the scene. The companies did a consumer campaign that basically made consumers aware that probiotics were good for you, and put probiotics on the map. Prebiotics, no one’s done that yet, so we want to make sure it’s done properly.”
Two of the leading prebiotics companies are Viome and uBiome. Viome analyzes the bacteria and chemicals contained in someone’s gut. uBiome uses machine learning, artificial intelligence, advanced statistical techniques, and patented technology to do the same.
Nutritional supplements to promote fertility
With millions of Americans dealing with infertility, the company Fruitful Way created a new app that it says is scientifically helping couples bring the romance back to baby making, right from a smartphone, with push notifications that sync to the female’s fertile window.
Fruitful Way has a natural supplement called “Fruitful for Him” and it has ingredients based on extensive experience and clinical evidence from Mayo Clinic research and numerous scientific articles. “Fruitful for Him” is a targeted formula designed to address the primary factors affecting male fertility, including sperm count, sperm health, sperm motility (swimming skills) and sperm morphology (shape and size). The company sells a natural fertility and conception toolkit for couples who are trying to get pregnant. It includes a unique, science-backed dietary supplement, scientifically mated with the sophisticated fertility app.
Fruitful Way aims to increases the chances for pregnancy success during the first 12 months by offering personalized supplementation, daily supplements tailored to personal risk factors, a dedicated formula for the male and female partners and a joint formula to be taken by both partners, a lifestyle engagement tool that incorporates your lifestyle risk factors and includes recommendations for fertility improvement, daily reminders and a tracking package shared by both partners during the process and finally the Ovulation Cycle Management App.
In July, the plant-based patty and sausage brand Beyond Meat announced the opening of a 26,000-square-foot research and development center located at the company’s headquarters in Los Angeles. Seven times the size of the company’s previous research and development space, the new facility will also serve as the base for the company’s “Manhattan Beach Project” — a group of scientists, engineers, food technologists, chefs and managers all working to develop plant-based meats.
Another brand seeking to stand out in the plant-based meats business is Terramino Foods. Terramino Foods uses sustainably grown fungi as a source of protein that provides the taste, texture, and nutrition of seafood and meat. Terramino closed a $4.25 million round of seed funding last month.
These are just a sampling of industries, products and companies. Monheit says there are more than 14,000 dietary supplement brands on Amazon and 30 percent of the companies are selling only through their own e-commerce sites or on Amazon.
And who’s buying all these products on Amazon and at health food stores?
“Millennials have added a value proposition; they want to see what your company values are and they want to know that you’re doing things that are good for the environment, that you’ve got sustainability, and that the messaging is consistent,” Monheit said. “Also, millennials want non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) where it applies. But I think it’s broader than the millennials. The millennials have brought the values and it’s just taken off.”