Do you think a healthy plant-based diet is nutritionally adequate?
I'm not a doctor so I want to be careful not to give medical advice!
That being said, I do believe that people can maintain a plant-based diet without any adverse health effects - there is a boatload of science surrounding this.
That being said, there are certainly nutrients that are harder to get when eating a plant-based diet so it can be difficult for those eating vegan. Supplementation can certainly help in this area.
In sum, I think that it can certainly be adequate and beyond that, with a little extra effort and supplementation, it can be an amazing lifestyle choice.
Is it okay to mix VitalFit products together?
Absolutely, we designed them to complement each other in fact!
One of my favorite things to do is to add tart cherry and adapted to my tea at night!
Are your products organic and vegan? How do you ensure this?
Our products outside of our collaborative project "wildly omega" are all vegan.
With regards to organic, this is a little more confusing.
What I usually say is that we use organic ingredients whenever possible. For example, our tart cherry is not organic but it is almost impossible to get this certification. Pine Pollen is another good example - we use natural pine pollen that is collected when it falls - this makes it impossible to certify that it is organic, even if it's the best pine pollen out there.
The ingredients in Planted and Adapted are all entirely organic - our lionsmane mushrooms are as well and these certifications come from the ingredient manufacturers.
One of our goals for the year ahead, is to get organic certifications for our products as a whole - this is an expensive endeavor but something that is very important to us.
What do your products taste like and why is Wild Omega tasteless, was this intentional or accidental?
Each product has a different taste - Tart Cherry is mild (i describe it as "a hint of cherry"), Planted is flavored for taste and has a nutty and sweet flavor of Vanilla Pumpkin, Adapted tastes like an herbal tea, and Source is creamy and tastes almost like a mushroom broth.
Wildly Omega is a little unique - we partnered with another awesome start-up on this project, MassOmega. They are the ones who actually produce and developed the capsules themselves. They opted for flavorless and the big reason is that there is no "burb up" with this fish oil. A lot of other fish oils have a burp up taste and therefore the manufacturers opt to flavor them - lemon is a common one you'll see. So in short, this was intentional.
For us, flavor is intentional but we also don't want to go crazy adding sweeteners or ingredients that aren't of value for the sake of taste - so basically, we try to strike a balance between simple and effective formulas that also taste okay.
From where do you source your ingredients and why have you chosen these sources?
We source all of our ingredients from the best and most trusted manufacturers.
For many of the ingredients we even go straight to where they're made. Tart Cherries come from Michigan, Mushrooms from China, Herbs from USA, and fish oil from the coast of Cape Cod.
We also try to source organic ingredients and everything we use has gone through stringent standards and purity testing.
This is one thing that makes us different - we handle the sourcing, formulation, and production, going to the best of the best for each of these processes'.
What market research have you conducted with regards to your products and brands and how has this research supported your brand in becoming more popular?
Coming from Babson, we learned the design thinking process and start-up method.
This led to us doing an abundance of market research and product testing far before the inception of the company.
It's been an iterative process and we've been learning as much as possible along the way.
I think that following this process has been a key driver in our success as we were able to test formulations before coming to market and get a grasp for the space to design a brand that people will respond to.
Which adaptogens do you use in your products and why?
We have two particular adaptogenic products with a few adaptogens in each.
Adapted - Lionsmane mushrooms, holy basil, lemon balm
Source - Cordyceps, pine pollen
We used these adaptogens for a few reasons.
We have a team of medical consultants with a wide breadth of perspectives that we go to when looking for ingredients to use. They give us tips, we test with our network, then we see what worked and what didn't. From there, we go back and hone in on formulations and design pairings of complementary ingredients. Finally, we look to source only the best quality and differentiated ingredients in each area. Once all of this is done, and everything meets our standards, we're ready to go to market. We probably test 20-30 ingredients before finding 1 that works with many formula iterations as well.
What has been the most effective social media channel that you have used to drive customers so far?
Instagram...by a mile.
Facebook ads are helpful for visibility and a facebook page is great for community events and staying in touch, but I think Instagram is the best for any modern brand.
That being said, we've noticed that the influencer movement and social media marketing are changing. People are seeing through some of the bs and Instagram's algorathim has made it harder to connect with the audience. Moving forward, stories and snapchat are likely the next frontier...if snapchat can ever recover.
Ultimately, we hope to develop a network within our own site so that we can have more intimacy with our customers and have a little more of a platform...but that takes a lot of time and money!
Did you do all the work on designing and packaging in-house? What would you do better if you could go back to that stage?
Yes we did....I can't take the credit, my business partner Cam leads all of our designing and I take more of a consultancy role. It's really amazing to see how much better he's gotten and how much we've learned about the impact of design.
We've learned so many lessons along the way because when we started we were total novices. I don't even know where to start - but I'll lay out a few key lessons we learned.
No one will care as much as you - this is why we started designing in the first place
It's expensive - do what you can to keep this in house
Keep it simple - most of the time, simple and clean designs are the best
Don't be afraid to fail/do something that's not perfect - it's easier to get something out there and change it than to try to have it perfect from the start
Listen - don't worry about what you think is best, listen to customers - they're the ones that matter
Prototype - I can't tell you how many times we've had stuff mis-sized, imperfect, etc. etc. just because we didn't build it all out first
Invest in software - having and learning indesign or illustrator is absolutely key
Be patient - I would always press Cam and try to set deadlines, etc. but really he just needed time to learn and experiment and then once he had the skills and inspiration, everything started to flow
Logos are vital - this is what people associate with your brand, take time to get this right
What would you do if your website suddenly drops in traffic and what could be the possible causes of this issue?
Hmm we've battled this a few times.
Assuming it's not a technical issue, there can be a few causes for this.
For example, our website viewership went off a cliff a few months ago due to a few factors and we tried to course correct.
We realized that we weren't involved enough in the community and meeting new people - we were busy with projects but it's always important to be involved locally and always be working the sales funnel.
We didn't have enough new content - so we published some new articles and recipes
We weren't as active on social media - constant activity and engagement is important for eyeballs
SEO optimization - not as many organic searches/clickthroughs
Facebook ads and direct email also boosts site traffic so stay up to date on this.
Have you had anything else that you think hurts traffic? One thing we've learned too is that there are ebbs and flows, and not to get too down or concerned with small variances.
Did you have a few ideas for a business and picked this or was this The one? Did you do much research before launching it and what were the deciding factors?
Myself and my co-founder Cam actually met at graduate school where we were studying entrepeneurship. So, I would say that we had a million ideas and definitely wanted to start a business.
We did immense amounts of research and had a process that I explained a few answers ago - we followed a design thinking approach!
When coming down to choosing what idea to focus on it came down to a few big factors.
Industry - We needed a growing industry that was ripe for innovation. Every start-up should solve a problem and customer need and we saw a lot of this in the supplement space
Partnership - Cam and I were perfect business partners, who you start a business with is one of the biggest success factors
Experience - We both had industry knowledge and experience that gave us a leg up
Timing - We thought the time was right and were prepared to pursue this together.
What is VitalFit's primary focus and how much of a role did this focus play in the initial creation of the company?
Our primary focus is education and that has never wavered.
Yes we are a product company and consumer brand and our products are centered around recovery. But even before any of that, we need to educate people about why recovery is important and why they should care.
Education has always been the primary focus as we learned that mis-information and lack of access to trustworthy information was the root of the issue in the supplement space and why there are so many bad actors.
While the products changed, branding changed, packaging changed, this core focus has always remained and we do our best to educate everywhere from our marketing materials to our labels to our website to our community events!
What’s your take on the use of VitalFit to improve training recovery and performance?
I'm obviously a little biased (lol) but I whole-heartedly believe in our products ability to aid in recovery and performance - and if I didn't I'd probably be doing something else.
All of our ingredients have significant science behind them with regards to recovery and performance and almost all of our customers use our products as such. I have heard only positive reviews and we take time to test and get feedback before bringing anything to market.
Most of our ingredients are clinically tested as well. For example, our tart cherry reduced inflammation 47%, took down soreness 34% and improved 13% in a clincal trial - pretty crazy that cherry skins can have such a profound effect!
Why is vigorous testing performed on your mushrooms?
There are a few reasons for this!
Our mushrooms come from China where they grow naturally and are also produced - the climate is perfect and this is also where the experts are as mushrooms have been far more common in eastern than western medicine.
There are so many different types of mushrooms and so many complexities that even slight variations and changes can significantly alter performance and use. So, we want to make sure that we're giving people exactly what they need.
Another factor is likely the fact that they come from China. There is some distrust of goods from the region so I would say that the manufacturers probably do this extra testing to help assuage any concerns from buyers such as ourselves.
Finally, mushrooms are expensive, so the manufacturer needs to guarantee what they're selling seeing as it's such an expensive ingredient.
It is our opinion that natural products should go through this testing and it only makes us more confident in what we're delivering to the end consumer. So, we look for this level of testing with regards to all of our ingredients.
What growth have you witnessed in the area of plant-based nutrition? Do you think that interest in the subject will continue to increase?
I think that plant based nutrition is on the rise but in the short time we've been doing it, I don't think there's been a seismic shift.
That being said, there are tons of innovators we're really excited about such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat that should be able to help us really change the narrative and find a wider range of adopters.
I think that ultimately it will be like the electric/autonomous car movement we're seeing now. It's becoming more mainstream and less stigmatized but there adoption is still a bit slow and a large segment won't want to change at least initially. Hopefully over time we can get the bulk of the population to come around on both as we personally believe that the world would be a better place.
What 'mistruths' about nutrition would you like to help dispel?
Here's a few quick ones:
There's no magic pill - it seems like everyone's looking for the perfect solution that solves all their problems overnight - sorry but it doesn't exist!! Wellness is a lifelong journey and requires a lot of attention and focus.
Working out all the time isn't what's best for you - we want people to find balance
Wellness isn't just physical - wellness is mental and physical
Plants don't have protein - Yes they do!
I could go on and on but hopefully this shows you a few!!!!
What would you say are some of the dietary habits that contribute to negative health outcomes?
That's a big question with no simple answer but I love it!
I honestly think the biggest problem is in processed food and kind of the overall food culture.
We're by no means perfect but I think a cool rule of thumb/strategy is to eat things that you can identify where they came from. So, if you are eating fruits and vegatables from the local farmers market and eating more home-made foods where you know what's going into it, it's a lot easier to be healthy. If you're a meat eater, just knowing where the meat comes from and how it got to your plate is so imporant. If you have an intimicacy and understanding of your food it's so much easier to be healthy.
So, that is probably an inverted answer but if I flip it back to your original question, I would say that the habits of eating processed food, being disconnected from our food system, and cooking cheap and easy food likely have the biggest negative effects on health.
My family is Italian and one of the things I've always loved is the passion, understanding, and time that goes into eating - not only the food but also the idea of sitting and eating and enjoying with friends and family. We're all in such a rush and now we don't really even think about or consider food as fuel but rather just eat to eat. I'm definitely not perfect about this and fall into the same traps/habits as everyone but I think that what I laid out is the solution if we all take time and commit to that lifestyle.