The journey to excellence in producing the best childrens vitamins has many hurdles. The supplement industry itself has many players who are more intent on serving their own purposes and agendas, as opposed to those of their clients and eventually the child consumer.
My journey started in 2009 with the premature birth of our twins, at 25 weeks of age. Being born 15 weeks ahead of schedule earned them a trip to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Cedar’s Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, where they were born.
During their 5 month stay in the NICU, there were many challenges and among these was getting their bodies to accept the bright orange A, D, E, & K vitamin mix that the nurses tried unsuccessfully to give them. Each time they were given the mix, they would throw up the formula, a response that would lead the nurses to suggest trying it again, which we strongly opposed. After 2 failures, we told them to stop trying to force our children to accept something that their bodies obviously refused.
Only one of the doctors in the entire NICU had ever tried the formula and stated that he immediately threw it up afterward, describing its taste as gut wrenching, horrific. It was an abominable taste that stayed with him for days. Unfortunately, there were no other alternatives, and the doctors tried comforting us by telling us that the previous formula was even worse. No go, not my children, no thank you! They then tried to convince us that something was better than nothing, but it was obvious that this toxic mixture wasn’t working for them, so the difference between no vitamin and vitamins that they immediately threw up, was equal.
The doctor who had tried the toxic potion, was aware of my background as a Chiropractor and my training in nutrition, and he suggested that if I created a children’s supplement, he would do his best to get it accepted into the hospital. The seed was planted, but it would still take another 6 months before I was able to consider even doing this. Five months in the NICU is a traumatic experience for parents and children alike and requires some time to recover.
As I started to consider where to begin, I thought about my previous experience with formulating products. Knowing nutrition is one thing and creating a formulation is something else. In the past, I’ve relied on the experience of others and in this instance thought private labeling a product would be a good place to start. Private labeling is when a company takes an existing product and places their label on the product, as opposed to the original manufacturing company’s label. The initial investment with private labeling would be smaller and I could ride on the coattails of someone else’s success.
Another Chiropractor had suggested that I start with a fish oil supplement that we could do a study on and then promote it based on the results. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a good fish oil supplement that any company was willing to allow me to private label. After 3 months of trying to find a product, it was obvious that I was going to have to start from scratch and develop my own products.
A little research helped me to define where I needed to start. Multivitamins make up the lion’s share of supplement sales. A good multivitamin is the cornerstone of any supplement line. Multivitamins are also more complex, as they can contain 26 ingredients or more.
I started buying up bottles and boxes of all the products currently available. Sugar was a staple in most of the ones available. It was an odd discovery as sugar is a big problem these days and children are already consuming far too much sugar. Vitamins should help solve the problem, not contribute to it.
It was odd also for the fact that sugar can block absorption of the some of the nutrients in the formula and also deplete the body of many of the others. The net gain from consuming a sugar-fortified supplement could potentially be zero.
Even the so-called industry experts echoed the necessity of sugar in kid’s products. To them it was a necessary evil, as they believe that there would be no other way to get children to consume vitamins.
I didn’t want to get into the candy business, however. I was more interested in children’s health. At one point during the past 4 years of this journey, we even found that the Halloween candy being sold near the registers at Whole Foods contained less sugar than the children’s supplements being sold on the shelves.
What no one was talking about were the sugar-free options that are available with stevia, erythritol, xylitol, and others. Sweetness may help, but sugar isn’t necessary. It’s a cheaper option that most manufacturers will try to steer you towards. It’s more profitable and easier for them to work with, which is about the extent of their concern.
It was at this point that I discovered that what was good for the bottom line of the company selling the products, was not always good for the child consuming the product. Money was king and the child’s interests came second, or somewhere in that downward direction.
I decided early on that our products needed to be sugar-free. A sugar-free children’s multivitamin was better for the children. Be a part of the solution, not the problem.
Next up, I needed to figure out the formulation.