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Supplementary benefits - Is the vitamin market ready for this jelly?

New to the supplements market, Yumi has already managed to secure more than £100K of investment in its range of chewable vitamins and has seen its CEO win a regional prize in the Great British Entrepreneur Awards.

Every day is a day in the classroom isn’t it? That is, unless you’re an actual schoolchild right now. There is always an opportunity for new learnings, and the insertion of new wisdom into the noggin.

Well, here’s something for today that might well blow your mind. Ready? OK.

There is no such thing as vitamins.

The what now? “But, I took some this morning!”

No. You didn’t.

You see, vitamins is a portmanteau of the words ‘vital minerals’. Hence, there are minerals but no vitamins and minerals.

Take a minute. Turns out everything you knew is now wrong. There’s another one about tomato ketchup, but you’ll have to wait until the end for that.

What there is, however, is Yumi - chewable vitamins (we will allow the popular usage) marketed towards adults who prefer their vital minerals in sweetie form.

The company was set up by Sebastien Vanderlinden, co-founder and now CEO of Yumi with some seed investment totalling £110,000. An impressive bit of fundraising given that, at the time due to some personal adversity, he says had very little to offer other than some Churchillian blood, sweat, tears and a decent idea for a product.

“I made a promise to my dad before he passed away that I would become a successful entrepreneur and that has driven me to where I am today,” he explains.

“I also believe that you are a product of your environment and surrounding yourself with people who are ambitious, inspiring and share the same values that you have is incredibly important. We raised £110,000 through Angel Investment Network, we ended up getting the investment from a syndicate of angel investors on there.”

This is where Vanderlinden’s previous tilt at establishing himself as an entrepreneur came in handy, adding vital experience and credibility to help secure the necessary funds to move his idea forward.

“I started two businesses prior to Yumi,” he continues.“When I was 19 I taught myself how to create apps, I then began to sell and create apps to small to medium size businesses.

“I realised quite quickly that I wouldn't be able to achieve the goals that I had set out with that business. I then came up with a social media app idea called Spotlinks which had some successes but ultimately failed as we were not able to turn any profit from it. But both previous business experiences helped and shape who I am today and what we have achieved with Yumi.”

“Do not be scared to fail” is a key part of the Vanlinden mantra, but still, chewable vitamins? For adults? It’s fair to say, none of us were lying awake wishing our daily dose of vitamins and iron came in a more fun format, were we? It can’t have been an easy sell.

“We identified a gap in the market a couple of years ago. Most chewable vitamins in the market were mainly targeted to kids or if they did target adults they would only sell one type of product. We then decided that we would come up with a wide range of chewable vitamins targeted to adults and change the narrative around taking supplements and vitamins. Most of the time when people take vitamins it is not an experience that people look forward to and we wanted to change that, hence why we called ourselves Yumi and all our products are in the form of a tasty gummy.

“And this is where our success comes from. We have been able to change the narrative, over 40 per cent of our business each month is recurring customers which is a huge number for an ecommerce brand and something that we are very proud of.”

Going back to just before the more than £100K of investment came in, the small team first had to develop a product with just over £1,000 to play with.

“This was not enough to match the minimum order quantities but we were smart and managed to place an order off the back of someone else’s. We had to start with off-the-shelf formulations that manufacturers were already producing until we were in a position to afford the minimum order quantities and develop our own. We now formulate our own formulas and invest hundreds of thousands in our manufacturing.”

The plan going forward is to continue to try to change the narrative around taking vitamins, expand into different markets and add to the product portfolio. And there’s also a new project in the pipeline which Vanderlinden will be revealing when the time is right.

Naturally, all businesses, retail particularly, have been it by the pandemic and although it may have temporarily slowed Yumi’s growth plans, the CEO is confident that the demand is still there and the focus remains on building the brand and indeed the market.

The disruption at retail has been offset by some healthy online sales, driving by some canny online marketing tactics.

“It depends on the month but most months, 80 per cent of our business comes from online sales but this can vary between 60 per cent to 80 per cent. We do really well on Amazon and have experienced a shift in sales from Google to Amazon. Then in terms of digital marketing you name it, we do it! Google Shopping, Facebook ads, email marketing, affiliate marketing etc.

“Retail buyers are now concentrating their attention more than ever on health products. I would say that the process seems to be taking longer than usual with all the current measures that are in place. Despite this, we launched with several retailers in 2020 including Holland & Barrett and TK Maxx and we have already secured a number of other retail distribution deals for 2021.”

Vanderlinden’s efforts have been rewarded with a win in the Great British Entrepreneur Awards in the North West region as Young Entrepreneur of the Year, no less. Which won’t do any harm in open yet more doors for the company.

“It means validation and recognition for everything that the team has accomplished,” he says. “The exposure that the awards have brought has also helped with a couple of deals that we are currently in the process of working on.”

Plenty to…er..chew on, then. And the company has certainly got off to a flyer despite the challenging conditions.

You want to know about the tomato sauce, right?

OK. Before the advent of plastic bottles of squeezy ketchup, the accepted method of getting sauce out of a glass bottle was to whack the bejaysus out of the bottom of it, right? A method which often resulted in an unwanted explosion of sauce and the ruination of fry-ups everywhere.

On the shoulder of a bottle of Heinz tomato sauce you will see a 57 moulded into the design. It isn’t there by accident. Don’t whack the bottom and risk a splurge, tap that 57 with the edge of your hand and the sauce oozes out at exactly the right pace.

You, are welcome.