If your vitamins look cool, will you be more likely to take them? That’s what Care/of, a new direct-to-consumer personalized vitamin service with exceptionally pretty packaging, is counting on. “Building healthy habits can be difficult — we saw a visual brand as a means to make that easier,” says Care/of CEO and co-founder Craig Elbert. “Aesthetics play a real role in what we enjoy doing and how we feel. If we create packaging that customers enjoy and are comfortable putting on their kitchen counter, they’ll be more likely to build the habit when seeing that cue in the morning.”
Making something boring, like vitamins, appealing and lifestyle-y follows the footprint set by Casper (mattresses), Away (luggage), Warby Parker (prescription glasses), Glossier (moisturizer) and Harry’s (shaving). Elbert is no stranger to sexing up a very blah necessity; prior to the vitamin venture, he led marketing at Bonobos. “We took a stagnant category (what could more boring than men’s khaki pants?) and made it delightful,” he explains, ultimately building the largest clothing company founded online in the U.S. “Research shows that the vitamin and supplements industry is one of the least trusted – even more so than cable and health insurance companies,” he says.
“Vitamins are an unregulated industry,” adds Stephanie Middleberg, registered dietician and founder of Middleberg Nutrition. “The FDA does not test [vitamins], nor does it require brands, manufactures or retailers to prove that the claims made — or what is even in the bottle — is actually what you’re taking. It’s a confusing industry and it’s up to you to do your own research,” she says, suggesting you talk to your doctor and check consumerlab.com, the only 100% independent provider of nutritional product test results.
Frustration in the vitamin aisle is what led Elbert to founding Care/of. “I knew I was vitamin D deficient, and my wife was pregnant and taking prenatal vitamins,” he recalls. “When we got to the vitamin aisle, it was crowded and overwhelming, and we didn’t know where to start,” Elbert says. “Today’s ‘one-size-fits-all’ multivitamin approach is outdated and oversimplified, having emerged from the need to optimize shelf space in a brick-and-mortar environment.” Middleberg argues that a multivitamin can be a good choice, especially for those without easy access to healthy foods, but she warns that, “daily supplements have a ton (many times way too many) of vitamins and minerals packed into a single dosage. While this may seem like you are getting everything you need quickly, it can also overwhelm your system.”
Care/of aims to be the opposite of the one-and-done multivitamin. Subscribers begin with a series of targeted lifestyle questions: What areas are you looking to work on or improve (digestion, memory, bone health, stress), where do you live, do you get sick a lot, how much do you drink, do you eat meat, do you care about GMOs and so on.
The recommendations are impressively targeted. Mine read: “Since you live in the northern half of the U.S., you may not be getting enough sun exposure to make the vitamin D your body needs. Since you don’t get a lot of dairy, you may not be getting as much calcium as you need as well.” Each recommended supplement comes with an explanation of why it was selected, what it does, how much research there is on effectiveness and where the Care/of version of the supplement comes from. Daily vitamin packs start at $20 per month, though cost varies based on what’s included (mine totaled $55 per month).
And then there’s the packaging. Each daily dosage has its own Instagram-friendly little pack (with your name on it, no less), dispensed from an attractive “tea-like” box. “We wanted the brand to be dynamic, vibrant and modern,” Elbert says. “We also wanted to consciously step away from easy wellness shorthand like sunrise beach yoga on a distant cliff.” Care/of sees your Athleta and raises you an Outdoor Voices.
The good looks worked on me. I’ve taken my vitamins every day since the package arrived. I’ve posted the pretty packaging on my Instagram Story more than once, as well as pics of the harmonious color coordination of my vitamins: the afternoon light passing through translucent orange fish oil, contrasted with the chalky white of “calcium plus” and speckled avocado green B-complex, punctuated by something oval and black called astaxanthin (for my cognitive health, apparently). “You’re obsessed with your vitamins,” my friend Marian wrote by DM.
The content is strong, but are they working? “The vast majority of the time, solving a vitamin deficiency won’t yield immediate results,” Middleberg tells me. “The answer may depend on WHY you’re taking a vitamin in the first place. If you have an iron or B12 deficiency, and were very tired, once you supplement for a few weeks chances are you will begin to feel more energetic,” she explains. Digestion, decreased pain and improved mood are also areas where people may be able to feel the impact of vitamins and supplements more quickly (you should also be able to see the results in doctor’s office blood work). “We also supplement to prevent heart disease, birth defects, decrease inflammation and increase brain function. These type of results are longer term and can’t necessarily be ‘felt,’” she adds.
Photos courtesy of Care/of.