Vitamin sales is big business: in the U.S. alone in 2012, it was worth $9.3 billion in sales, and the opportunity is only growing, as more consumers turn to preventative medicine and health strategies in the face of tightening budgets and less access to health care. Toronto startup Koge wants to revolutionize the process of vitamin sales, using the recently-popular subscription goods model, along with leveraging data analytics for personalization.
Koge thinks that there are inherent problems in the way vitamins are currently sold and distributed, with problems at the sales level (customer service reps recommend expensive, big-name brands over other cheaper options that are just as good), busy schedules prevent people from sticking to a supplement regimen, and there’s an overabundance of choice and not enough help to sift through all that information. Koge wants to address all those pain points, starting with the process of choosing what works for each individual and making ordering easy.
Users of its website select a specific track of vitamins they want to take, depending on their goals or identity. Right now, Koge is keeping that to a very simple formula, by offering a choice between four different categories: one for general energy, one for women, one for men and one for protein content specifically. The aim was to get some level of tailored product out the door quickly, but still keep things simple, but in the future Koge’s goal is to launch personalized vitamin selections tailored to each individual, something which Koge co-founder Alex Hyssen says the startup should be ready to launch sometime later this year.
Hyssen is another of the startup’s key differentiating factors, since he brings to Koge years of experience in the family business of supplements and vitamins. His family is behind the Herbal Magic chain of vitamin-powered weight loss clinics, and his ties to the vitamin industry mean that unlike others, Koge can access supply cost effectively and at smaller scales, so they don’t need to worry about competing with big volume orders. Koge is vertically integrated with North America’s largest vitamin manufacturer, Hyssen says, and that company is investing in its next round of funding, too.
Finally, Koge has just secured a relationship with Loblaws, Canada’s leading grocery store chain, to provide Koge products in-store. They’ll offer the same kind of tracked vitamin shopping experience, but from store shelves, as part of the pilot project. It’s big in terms of getting the brand out there and earning consumer trust, which is key for anyone trying to sell health and wellness products on the internet.
Koge still has big challenges: it needs to figure out the right way to make sure that customers actually follow through on sticking to a regimen of taking vitamins, and Hyssen says they’ve been testing things like text-based reminders, phone calls, virtually anything and are still looking for the right solution. But it’s off to a good start, and plans are quickly coming together for the imminent U.S. launch.