Two pharmacists in New Brunswick want to bring a new level of transparency to the business of nutritional supplements.
Dan Pike and Greg MacFarlane are the founders of Liv9, a Fredericton-based life sciences startup that formulates natural multi-vitamin health supplements.
The company got its start in 2013 when Pike and MacFarlane were working as compounding pharmacists, meaning they worked to create individualized products and formulations for their patients based on their needs.
“A number of years back through our compounding practice in our pharmacies, we began doing custom nutritional supplements for our clients,” says Pike. “If you have someone who has an allergy to a particular ingredient in a vitamin or they’re gluten intolerant for instance, we can actually design a product that’s customized for them.”
The duo made their supplements with as few non-medical ingredients as possible. Some of their formulations started getting good feedback from patients regarding their increased energy levels and how they were feeling overall. It was then that they discovered a bigger opportunity.
“We see all these mass-produced vitamins, nutritional products on our shelves. When you look at the ingredients, often there are far more non-medicinal ingredients than medicinal,” says Pike. “We said ‘hey, we’re compounding this, we can create something better.’”
“That’s what we set out to do and at that point, we incorporated Liv9 and submitted to Health Canada our first formulation and got our first product.”
Liv9 currently has one product called “Balance and Energy,” which has been on the market for little over a year. They’re also working on a new product that they expect to be on shelves by the end of the summer called “Relax Muscle and Mind,” a magnesium-based supplement.
“Our target market and target customers have been the ageing baby-boomers with an athletic slant,” says Pike. “Somebody that is trying to stay active is conscientious about their health, is looking for a clean product free of unnecessary fillers, dyes and all the other stuff that you tend to see in tableted form of multivitamins.”
Pike says Liv9 is constantly researching different ingredients and formulations, working with different labs across New Brunswick. Recently they’ve been working with CCNB in Grand Falls researching the nutritional properties of blueberries.
“We’re examining these products and trying to extract these keys ingredients and ultimately identify an ingredient that we can incorporate into future products for us,” says Pike. “Continuously looking at ingredients and research, that’s our raison d’etre.”
But Liv9 doesn’t just want customers to believe their products have natural ingredients, they want them to see it for themselves. Every lot is third-party tested and customers can go onto the Liv9 website and enter their bottle’s lot number to look up the results.
“If you bought a bottle of Balance and Energy right now, you could type in the lot, and it will show you all the testing that’s been done, that it meets all of the requirements and that what we’re saying is in the bottle, is actually in the bottle and [is] the stated amount,” he says.
“We don’t have to do that. Companies don’t have to do that. We feel that transparency and trust are really our value proposition. You can take our product and feel comfortable knowing that what’s in there is what we’re saying is in there.”
Liv9 is currently being carried at retail locations throughout the Maritimes, but the goal is to ultimately expand nationally and beyond.
“Right now we’re focusing on Atlantic Canada because this is where we are, but ultimately we want to grow this brand into something more national and take it from there,” says Pike. “We also feel there is a tremendous opportunity for this type of product through export and we’ve been having discussions with BioNB and different organizations about the potential for bringing this product to the U.S. and what you have to do to make that happen.”