By Clare O'Connor. Source: Forbes.
When Katerina Schneider got pregnant, she became — like many expectant mothers — especially wary about what chemicals she was putting in and on her body. She checked labels on toothpastes and deodorants. But there was one bottle in her medicine cabinet she wasn’t quite sure about, and it was arguably the most crucial to the well-being of her baby: her prescription prenatal vitamins. There was no ingredient list; her own research yielded little.
“I called 10 friends who were or had been pregnant and no-one could remember what brand they took,” said Schneider, a former venture partner with entrepreneur Troy Carter’s AF Square and a 2014 Forbes 30 Under 30 list member. “Some with multiple kids had been taking them for five years.”
Schneider saw the vitamin industry — worth $36 billion in the U.S. alone — as a black box, despite one in every two Americans taking a supplement of some kind every day.
“Why can we know where our almonds in almond milk come from, but not the vitamin D in our vitamins?” she said.
Since that moment in front of her medicine cabinet in early 2015, Schneider has set about building a vitamin company from the ground up.
On Wednesday, she announced the launch of Ritual, backed by a $3.5 million seed round led by all-women venture capital firm Forerunner Ventures. Norwest and NEA also participated, with reinvestment from Upfront Ventures and Rivet Ventures, who backed an earlier $1.3 million round.
Ritual is launching with one product: a daily multivitamin for women, which includes nine ingredients Schneider’s team of scientists has identified as the most essential, in their most effective forms. They’re non-GMO, vegan, gluten- and soy-free, with no synthetic fillers or colorants.
Ritual is direct-to-consumer, cutting out middlemen to pass on savings to the customer, Schneider said. She calls the vitamin’s $30 per month subscription “luxury at a fair price.”
“If you were to buy the individual ingredients, it would cost you $150 a month, if you’re cobbling together an Omega-3 and multivitamins,” she said.
Along with Omega-3, Ritual’s daily supplement contains vitamins K2, D3, B12, and E, as well as boron, iron, folate, and magnesium. The startup lists the pill’s benefits to women as improving mood, maintaining energy, anti-aging, and protecting skin.
Ritual is transparent about the origins of each ingredient; on its website, consumers can learn the provenance of each element and its form. The iron in each pill, for instance, is manufactured by Utah-based Albion, a subsidiary of Balchem Corporation.
“We use ferrous bisglycinate, which has better tolerability, absorption, and efficacy than other iron forms which may cause nausea,” Ritual’s site reads.
Schneider plans to publish the research Ritual undertook before launch, led by industry veteran Dr. Luke Bucci, now the startup’s VP of R&D.