Like many wellness-minded people, Melissa Snover used to have a strict vitamin routine. Seven a day, self-curated according to her needs. But keeping track of the combinations was confusing. She’d have to buy separate bottles of different vitamins, usually with varying pill quantities, and often from different stores, making the mixing-and-matching a hassle. She traveled a lot, which added further annoyance. “I used to have to carry a disgusting ziplock bag full of random vitamins,” she says.
That set of vexations motivated Snover to start a customized vitamin company, to fit “extremely high-impact nutrition into an enjoyable medium, to take on a daily basis.” When supplement-takers subscribe to Nourished, they can choose their “totally bespoke” collection of vitamins, which are then 3D-printed, using a patented process, into separate and precise vitamin layers, creating a single, vegan, sugar-free gummy. Those daily portions are then boxed up and shipped to customers in three-month supplies.
Most customers who use Nourished—there were about 15,000 boxes shipped in March—start by taking an algorithm-powered quiz on the website, which asks questions about allergies, use of glasses or contacts, consumption of processed food, and exercise and sleep habits. The answers generate a recommendation for the best combination of seven vitamins, minerals, or superfoods that are vital for helping bodies deal with different conditions, whether their properties are anti-aging, anti-inflammation, or pro-energy. (Although many experts say the vitamin levels required can be achieved simply through a healthy and balanced diet.)
Suggested “nourishments” may be age-old favorites like vitamin C (for healthy bones), zinc (for the immune system), or folic acid (for healthy red blood cells). They could be herbal superfoods like ginseng or ginger extract. Or they could be lesser-known supplements like “scutell’up,” Nourished’s name for skullcap, a plant in the mint family with the Latin name Scutellaria, known for mood-boosting qualities; or cordyceps, a Chinese medicine staple for muscle recovery that Healthline describes as a “parasitic fungi that grows on the larvae of insects.”
The 3D-printing process is carried out by the machines in Nourished’s factory in Birmingham, England. The seven chosen nutrients are placed into seven vegan 3D-printer cartridges, made of pectin, a fiber and thickener found in apples and lemons, and extruded into hexagonal layers. What forms is a 10.5-gram gummy, with seven evenly stacked layers atop one another. Seven is the magic number, by the way, largely because of the “nonscientific” reason, Snover admits, that at the time she came up with the idea for the gummies she was taking seven vitamins a day. The slightly more scientific reason is that the company found, via surveys in the U.K., that people take a median of five to eight vitamins daily. Seven seemed like a manageable number.
Snover started out 3D-printing candy gummies, without the vitamins, in 2015, and created a patented 3D food printer that was approved by both the Food and Drug Administration and the U.K.’s Food Standards Agency. That venture, the Magic Candy Factory, allowed for such precise and pretty confectionary as the gummy Eiffel Tower, made with the same vegan gel and customized flavor model that Nourished uses, but adding the health and wellness impacts. Nourished launched in January 2020 in the U.K., and in November 2020 in the U.S., under the parent health tech company that Snover founded in 2019, Remedy Health, which has just announced its Series A funding of $11 million.
According to Snover, the texture is similar to a Sour Patch Kid, but doesn’t risk going hard like gelatin-based gummies. (“Eventually, if a bag of Haribo dries out long enough, it’ll break your teeth,” she says.) They can be sweet or sour, but they’re all sugar-free, sweetened instead with a sugar alcohol called erythritol. The taste will differ according to the ingredients, a complex balance to strike for all the combinations of seven from 30 possible elements. Some of the nutrients have no taste or smell; others are pungent, to say the least, and must be masked with citrus aromas. Take resveratrol, an antioxidant made from the skins of grapes and berries, which have to be kept in a locked cabinet. “Holy macaroni,” Snover says. “The smell is like dirty feet, and baby diapers that have been rotting in the sun.”
Snover admits that it’s hard to test how exactly the vitamins are working once consumed, especially since the individual vitamins work in different ways—the supposed quick energy boost of vitamin B12, for instance, versus more prolonged effects of others. But, in contrast with bulk-made, store-bought vitamins, which are produced way in advance and can therefore lose freshness, Nourished vitamins tend to retain their potency because they ship, mostly within the U.K. and to the U.S., right after production.
This year, Nourished Kids launched, following the same formula but for children’s vitamins, with the online quiz asking about tendencies toward crankiness and too much screen time. At the end of the year, the company aims to launch 3D-printed, customizable protein bars. Whatever products people buy, Snover hopes the cornucopia of choices means customers will feel less restricted. Most subscribers switch up their vitamins every three months or so, she says, “because the idea that you need the same nutrients all year round, when your life changes through the different seasons, is kind of nuts.”