Ritual: the Vitamin Brand for the Woman Who Reads LabelsThe company has nothing to hide.Published: March 18, 2019
What’s in your multivitamin? Many well-meaning supplement takers have a hard time answering the question. Ritual wants to help them do so. If you ask Katerina Schneider, founder of the direct-to-consumer women’s vitamin brand, the vast majority of multivitamins dominating the $13.4 billion US supplement market are crammed with unnecessary nutrients and harmful additives. To fix this, the company created an utterly simple solution with everything you need and nothing you don’t. One clear capsule with just nine essential nutrients, once a day. That’s it. We spoke with Schneider about what women really need from a supplement, putting transparency first, and how hearing “no” inspired her to innovate.
What inspired you to launch Ritual in 2016?
I always cared about health, and experimented by trying different wellness trends. But I never really took vitamins. Getting pregnant started my path toward reinventing the vitamin. I started caring a lot more about what I was putting in and on my body because the stakes were higher.
I started trying to find the best vitamin. When I called up a bunch of friends to ask what vitamins they were taking, literally nobody could remember the brand. I got things like “nature something,” or “yellow bottle with a brown cap.” There was zero brand affinity. At the same time, I found ingredients in the prenatal that I was told to take that I didn’t even want to put on my body. It seemed crazy that no one was building a brand for our generation that was clean, effective, and communicated clearly. So I left my job while I was four months pregnant to start Ritual.
How did you develop the concept for Ritual Essential for Women?
After a funding round, we hired one of the industry’s leading scientists, Dr. Luke Bucci. He leads our R&D team. With him, we spent a year researching women’s diets, trying to understand if we even need vitamins. Forget prenatals. Does the average woman need to be supplementing her diet with anything? Are we getting enough nutrients from our food?
We realized that the typical multivitamins that have 20-40 ingredients are outdated. We get most of those nutrients from our diets today. But it turns out, there are nine essential nutrients that we could all use more of, that typical multivitamins are missing.
What was your strategy for sourcing ingredients?
We became obsessed with finding ingredients that are not only transparent but also traceable. We went on this crazy mission to find the best forms of each nutrient that work for all women’s bodies, regardless of their genetic makeup or dietary preferences. One interesting finding from our research is that we’re more alike than different: 90 percent of us are missing the same nine key ingredients.
We partnered with scientists from all over the world. We found vitamin D3 from wild-harvested lichen, instead of from sheep’s wool or fish liver oil, which most vitamins use. Since we found that over a third of women have a gene variation that makes it hard to utilize synthetic folate (folic acid), we use enzymatically active, naturally-occurring folate. We use omega-3s from the fermentation of microalgae, a process that leaves no environmental contamination.
Can you elaborate on your patent-pending capsule technology?
We wanted to make a product that was super convenient for women to take, so we reinvented the actual pill form. Most multivitamins get released in the stomach, where they encounter harsh stomach acid. We developed a delayed release outer capsule with Capsugel that bypasses the stomach and gets released in the small intestine.
What does “clean” nutrition mean to you?
For us, it means a lot of things. The first is there are no potentially harmful ingredients, which can be kind of controversial. If an ingredient has been shown to cause tumors in rodents, we consider it potentially harmful, though someone could argue it’s fine for humans. We’ve come up with a list of ingredients that we avoid. Every step of the way, we meet internally to debate whether something is clean or not.
Dr. Luke and I worked closely together to clean up the technology used in pharmacy products and find alternatives. Our ingredients are vegan-friendly, non-GMO, allergen-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free. We also avoid cross-contamination, microbes, and heavy metals. We created a product with virtually nothing extra.
What differentiates Ritual from the established heavyweights in the vitamin space?
We’re incredibly skeptical of the industry, because we didn’t come from it. The industry and manufacturers were telling us that we had to do things a certain way. We embraced people telling us no, and we saw that as an opportunity for change. We reimagined the vitamin by starting from a clean slate with our formulation, ingredients, and encapsulation.
We’re also direct to consumer, which allows us to cut out the middleman and create a product that would normally be $250 for $30 a month, which might be more than a typical multivitamin, but omega-3s alone would cost you that.
How do you conceive of your target customer?
She is incredibly smart and informed. She reads her labels and questions things. She’s the one that does her research.
How do you leverage social media to engage with customers?
We built our brand entirely off social media. We’re able to have conversations with our customers on social media. A user will ask a question on an Instagram post, and our customer experience team, which sits right next to our scientific team, will answer them directly. I think it’s really surprising and delightful for customers to get a response from a company that’s so direct and informed.
Instagram has also been great for us because we’re a very visual brand and we like to show, not tell, our story. It lets us tell our story in a fresh way and show different dimensions beyond our website.
What’s next for Ritual?
Our whole philosophy is to reinvent the daily vitamin that’s core to a woman’s foundational health. We’re working on products to grow with her as her needs change. The next few products will still provide one single vitamin, but for different life stages.