The Cork firm revolutionising food supplements
Summit NutriHealth uses innovative technologies to make supplements easier to take
Summit NutriHealth cofounders Mark Clifford and Paula Gaynor. The company is focusing on the Irish market initially and its products are now available online and in more than 70 outlets nationwide
Mark Clifford and Paula Gaynor are the cofounders of Bandon-based Summit NutriHealth which is aiming to put a new twist on food supplements. There are two aspects to the twist. Firstly, the products are formulated in a way that adds value or is different to what’s currently available. Secondly, the delivery method is non-traditional and based on easier to take liquids or drops instead of the usual tablets or capsules.
The company’s first product is SOMEGA Easy, an Omega-3 supplement that packs a nutritional punch without the unpleasant aftertaste and smell often associated with fish oil products. Older consumers in particular will shudder as they remember being frogmarched to the cod liver oil bottle on cold winter mornings, but Clifford says his company’s peach and mango flavoured smoothie-like product leaves “no fishy taste or oily mouth feel”.
The company’s second product is SOMEGA Liposomal Vitamin C which has a citrus flavour. It was launched at the end of June and its unique selling point is that the vitamin C is protected inside nano-sized liposomes bubbles. This is significant because the human body excretes much of the Vitamin C it ingests and this can affect the efficacy of normal supplements. With liposomal delivery, however, the absorption is significantly improved. Also joining the line-up this month are dropper and spray vitamin D and combined vitamin D&K products. The good news for vegans is that they can take them as it’s normally quite difficult to get vegan-friendly vitamin D.
Like many parents, Clifford and Gaynor struggled to get their children to eat fish and take Omega-3s in capsule form. However, with nutrition and food science backgrounds they were in a better position than most to come up with a smarter way of getting these essential oils into their family’s diet. When they began looking at setting up their own business in 2018, tackling the Omega-3 challenge seemed like a good place to start.
“Our aim is to make good nutrition easy for people. It shouldn’t be a chore or a bore,” says Clifford who has over 20 years’ experience in the food and pharmachem sectors in Ireland and the United States, while Gaynor has a PhD in food science and technology and over a decade of experience of working in the food supplements industry.
“We have three children and wanted to ensure they were getting the best nutrition possible in their diet, especially fish Omega-3s which are essential for our brain, heart and eye health. But they didn’t like eating fish regularly or taking supplements and typical supplement formats were not appetising enough to encourage them to take them,” says Gaynor.
“The food industry is constantly developing new formats and tastes to excite the consumer but the food supplements industry has much more limited and staid formats with little to no versatility of use,” she adds. “We wanted to bridge that gap, make the user experience better, and produce an Omega-3 supplement that has the same pleasurable characteristics as a food.”
The company is focusing on the Irish market initially and its products are now available online and in more than 70 outlets nationwide. However, it has its sights set on exporting and is already selling on Amazon’s UK site and is in discussion with retail buyers in Scandinavia as part of the State-backed Atlantic Food Export Programme.
Summit NutriHealth has been supported by LEO West Cork but the bulk of the €100,000 invested so far has come from personal savings. The products are being made in Europe and the US but once sales reach sufficient volume the intention is to relocate the manufacturing to Ireland. However, from a business development perspective Clifford says that building out the company’s R&D capabilities will be just as critical to future growth as selling supplements.