When it comes to vitamins, most people probably take at least one multivitamin.
But if the pandemic has prompted you to increase your vitamin D intake in the sun, or perhaps add a probiotic to the mix to improve your gut health, you are far from alone.
According to market analysts Mintel, the already booming preventative health supplement market grew 10% in 2020 and is expected to exceed half a billion pounds this year.
However, forget to make a personalized prescription from jars of capsules that invariably need to be restocked at different times: the last way to take them is a 3D printed vitamin “gum”, where each layer contains a different nutrient.
The idea is the brainchild of Melissa Snover, 41, a married mother-in-law of three and a business graduate who had worked in non-gelatin confectionery and had previously experimented with 3D printing of children’s gummies.
Birmingham-based Melissa Snover, 41 (pictured), founded the 3D printed vitamin ‘gum’ company Get Nourished
Three-dimensional printing is a process that creates objects from a digital file. In the same way that an inkjet printer adds dots to form an image, a 3D printer adds material – one layer at a time.
Once a bespoke vitamin regimen is created, it is sent to the printer, instructing it on how to layer custom active ingredient blends to deliver a month’s supply of batteries in record time. This is a process that would not be possible with conventional manufacturing. No wonder Melissa’s approach is shaking more traditional vitamin producers and retailers.
Her company, Get Nourished, is based in Birmingham where, according to Melissa, she can make 22 billion different bespoke permutations of their vegan vitamin candies, using technology that took more than five years to perfect.
Their HQ is behind an innocuous blue door in Digbeth’s warehouse district, home to trendy start-ups and cafes. Inside, rather than in the high-tech clinical setup I expected, it looks endearing.
The premises are more Big Bang Theory than Silicon Valley. Almost everyone who works there, dressed in mop caps and blue hygiene gloves, appear to be under 30 and mostly male. There is a buzz of excitement and urgency, and the pine workbenches are full of all kinds of widgets and tools.
The actual vitamins are kept in the kind of cold room you would find in a restaurant. When loaded into the cartridges specially designed for layer-by-layer 3D printing, they look like colorful fireworks or candles. The 3D printer itself appears, to my untrained eye, like a sophisticated stainless steel mute server that runs at an impressive speed and produces piles of vitamins.
Each 3D printer, costing £ 50,000, can produce a one-month supply in five minutes. With up to 20 printers capable of running 18 hours per day, the company can produce up to 400 orders per day, or more than 6,000 batteries per day per printer.
Get Nourished claims that all of its raw ingredients are locally sourced, 98% of which are sourced from Britain. In the photo: vitamins
Get Nourished claims that all of its raw ingredients are sourced locally, 98% of which is UK, and come in highly concentrated and absorbable forms.
For example, if your stack contains turmeric, the active compound in it is curcumin. Get Nourished source a highly concentrated version of what is usually less than a week when printed in a customer’s stack.
This means, says Melissa, that they are 99.5% more efficient than those that may have degraded with exposure to various conditions (heat, light, humidity) sitting on a shelf in a drugstore or a supermarket.
Customers take a quiz on the company’s website that asks questions covering everything from eating and exercise habits to screen time. It probes priorities and goals – for example, do they want more energy or better sleep?
Based on this information, an algorithm selects seven vitamins, minerals, and superfoods from the 31 available – including ginseng, vitamin A, and coenzyme Q10 – and sends instructions to the 3D printer to create the candy in the form of ‘a single layer tablet.
I declare that I want to feel energized, improve my immunity and lose weight (not asking too much, right?) My pill is made with ashwagandha extract, Careflow mango powder, extract of ginger, white bean extract, LactoSpore probiotic, vitamin A and selenium.
Melissa (pictured) said her idea to create Get Nourished was sparked by the desire to make vitamins more convenient
It costs £ 39.95 for a month’s supply, which is considerably cheaper than buying seven active ingredients of the same quality separately. They also tick the eco box, using biodegradable plastic-free packaging.
It was an incident at an airport in 2018 that sparked the idea for the company. “I let go of my entire supply of vitamins by rushing to airport security with a colleague I wanted to impress,” says Melissa, who at the time ran 3D candy maker Magic Candy Factory. “So I decided that was ridiculous and that I needed to make vitamins more convenient.”
For now, customers can order online at get-nourished.com or at Selfridges in London, which offers a mock-up model of a 3D printer and a choice of 13 stacks of pre-mixed food (£ 29.95) .
Since the idea came to her while jet-setting overseas, Melissa expects demand for her product to increase once travel fully opens, and is working with British Airways to deliver personalized nutrition to travelers on the ground and in the air.
However, many doctors remain skeptical about vitamin supplementation. “If you eat a healthy, balanced diet, you don’t need vitamin intake and it’s certainly not an easy solution to problems caused by poor nutrition,” says general practitioner Dr Lizzie Victor. “If you think you have a deficiency of, say, vitamin D or zinc, this should be properly identified by a blood test with your GP.”
Melissa (pictured) believes that juggling childcare and a busy job, many people don’t get all the vitamins they need from their diets all the time
Melissa agrees but thinks that, whether it’s juggling kids or a busy job, many of us don’t get everything we need from our diets all the time. With more and more people choosing to follow a predominantly vegetarian or vegan diet, supporting it with the right supplements can be extremely beneficial. The company’s next product line will be personalized protein bars.
As for me, I took my stack of 3D vitamins in the middle of the afternoon. While there is no added sugar, psychologically it gives me a boost and the sour taste I opted for (you can choose between sweet and sour) is delicious.
I’ve been taking my food for almost two months – Melissa suggests six to 12 weeks to see an impact – and I feel more energetic, motivated, and like I have more stamina.
I went through a lot of stress so for the second month I adjusted my stack to reflect that. In the second month, I gave up on vitamin A and probiotic, and added tart cherries and black pepper to switch from immunity to a calmer mood.
I feel like a kid in a candy store – and yes, there is clearly a novelty factor here – but who wouldn’t want to be a health-conscious Willy Wonka, making multi-colored lozenges that you can laugh at without the guilt?