In the US, branded vitamins taking their visual language from the beauty world are a trendy new product category that retailers are racing to invest in. A New Zealand company has launched its own AI-enabled answer to the trend: Wondermins.
Wondermins is based around a tailored dietary supplement subscription service. Shoppers fill out an online questionnaire which asks questions about their health goals and lifestyle, and Wondermins’ algorithm recommends a selection of supplements based on the information given. Those who choose to buy are sent a box dispensing daily doses of their recommended products.
Wondermins’ chief executive and co-founder Rob Berman founded Fatso in the early 2000s. Before the rise of streaming killed it off, Fatso mailed physical DVDs and video games around New Zealand as part of an online-based subscription service.
Berman’s co-founder and CMO Jeremy Johnston runs advertising agency Sugar & Partners. The pair are joined by Switzerland-based Brett Friedman, who was head of R&D at Natural Health Laboratories Ltd. This lab developed the Clinicians range of supplements in New Zealand.
Wondermins’ publicity material says the company takes an evidence-based approach to supplements. Asked to elaborate on this, Johnston says there’s two sides to making sure Wondermins’ products are safe and appropriate for consumers: nutritional information, and interpreting the nutritional information through Wondermins’ algorithm. The team refer to their algorithm as ‘the Prescription Engine’.
“Brett has helped us understand not just the specific nutrients that are best suited to specific health goals for each customer – but what the strength of the research is behind each nutrient – and dosages, contra-indications etc,” Johnston says. “He ‘peer-reviews’ results from the Prescription Engine and has been involved in extensive testing of the system.”
“There are literally millions of combinations across 30 SKUs – so [developing the AI] was a pretty mammoth task.”
There’s been significant buzz about branded ‘designer vitamins’ treated as extensions of the beauty world overseas, especially in the US. Brands like Halo Beauty and Sugarbear Hair are popular products commonly promoted by social media influencers and sold through retailers like Sephora, showing strong growth.
Johnston regards Wondermins as similar to these companies, noting that its brand speaks two three major trends: consumers’ empowerment and active interest in their healthcare; the subscription economy; and customization.
“Brands are learning to deliver personalised and bespoke solutions – whether it’s a playlist, a meal kit or a personalised vitamin regime – it is about delivering unique solutions and, hopefully, more genuine relationships.
“For example, down the track we hope to be able to help people monitor their nutrient levels and results. How much more empowering is that? As opposed to just selling a bottle of vitamins?”
Johnston traces Wondermins’ origins back to a response to disruption, and to his work with ad agencies.
“I think that ad agencies have been notoriously bad at innovating their business model – and are being out-positioned as we speak. But we have amazing people – with amazingly creative business solutions. So, this is one way to apply those skills outside the old-fashioned and frankly dumb hourly rate model. Also, it keeps us match fit: there’s nothing like having to make the same kind of decisions that our clients have to make to bring empathy, pragmatism and higher levels of accountability to the creative process.”
Wondermins launched on April 11 in New Zealand. Johnston says a corporate strategic partner is already interested in an Australian launch. Asked to share his ambitions for the company, he says the team is currently focusing on getting the basics right.
“To make the customer experience thoughtful, informative and transparent. We need to demonstrate to them that they can actually have it all: a personalised recommendation; sometimes up to 30 percent savings versus pharmacy; direct-to-your-door convenience – and simple daily packs.”
“Hopefully we want to be a bit disruptive to the status quo too - and grow. Having said that, we think this technology helps personalise recommendations and start great conversations with customers – and could easily sit nicely in a pharmacy or other retail environment too. That’s probably the next area to look at, aside from offshore territories. “
The Wondermins team has already identified another category to which their AI technology can be applied, Johnston says. Watch this space.