3D-printed Supplement Stacks Deliver Personalized Nutrients

Customers answer a questionnaire that yields a bespoke nutraceutical ‘stack’ of seven 3D-printed ingredients in a monthly supply. The resulting colorful, customized gummies are packed in home-compostable wrap in a letterbox-friendly carton.

Quick hits:

  • UK-based Nourished uses 3D printing machinery to layer different “mixes” of active ingredients on top of each other to form a single product quickly, which is specifically suited to the consumer's individual requirements.
  • Nourished packages each stack in home-compostable wrapping using a flow wrapper on-site at their facility in Birmingham.
  • They introduced a letterbox-friendly box to house the flow wrapped stacks in May 2020, which is made from at least 90% recycled cardboard from a supplier in the EU.
  • With Colgate, they are teaming up to deliver stacks specifically for oral care, with other partnerships and ingredients launching soon.        

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Hi I’m Keren Sookne with another episode of Take Five Video with Healthcare Packaging.

McKinsey came out with a report not long ago that says “Consumers don’t just want personalization, they demand it. COVID-19 and the surge in digital behaviors have raised the bar for all players in both offerings and outreach.

Beyond customized marketing communication, we've seen personalized skincare, haircare, and more as consumers look for more tailored products vs. off-the-shelf options.

This isn’t easy for healthcare manufacturers who have spent decades producing large batch, blockbuster drugs. As Kim Overstreet recently wrote, shorter, customized runs in healthcare can strain production capacity at legacy plants.

Well one supplement company founder saw a way to use 3D printing to deliver personalized gummies that meet demand for tailored vitamins, going beyond what many would consider short runs to batches of just 28, a monthly supply.

Melissa Snover is a registered nutritionist and founder & CEO of UK-based Nourished

She feels that the current industry standard for personalization—picking separate tablets and packing them together—isn’t necessarily convenient, truly personalized, or sustainable.

In 2020, Snover launched Nourished’s personalized vitamins and Life-stacks. 3D printers layer different “mixes” of active ingredients on top of each other to form a single product quickly, which is suited to the consumer's individual requirements. The stacks encompass made-to-order vitamins and ingredient combinations that are sugar-free, vegan, allergen-free, and wrapped in home compostable wrap.

So how does this work? Customers take part in a quick two-minute questionnaire, which generates recommendations for seven layers of nutrients (out of 35 options) that are best suited for the individual via a proprietary algorithm.

They landed on seven nutrients in the Nourished stacks during product development—they found that the average consumer in the U.S. and UK was taking between five and eight vitamins and nutrients a day.

Once the customer completes the quiz—and they select their coating flavor from six options including strawberry, pineapple, and cola—their personalized stack results are shown, displaying the seven suggested nutrients. The colorful stacks are available for both one-time purchase and longer-term subscription.

As Snover explains, Nourished uses a proprietary 3D file and movement instruction file within the 3D printer—this tells the printer what to create, how to move, and when to deposit the gummy material.

They use fused deposition modeling and seven print heads to create an industrial 3D printer capable of making a monthly supply of personalized supplements in just minutes. The machines utilize the normal X, Y, and Z axis with the addition of a four-rotation axis, together with an innovative plug-and-play cartridge retraction system, Snover says. The production team picks seven cartridges containing the seven active ingredients bespoke for a customer and loads these into the 3D printer to create the stacks. They use seven plastic-free, food-grade syringes, which 3D print on a rotation method to encapsulate all of the active ingredients without them destroying each other.

Nourished packages each stack in home-compostable flow wrap composed of wood pulp, personalized with the customer’s name on it. Individual flow wraps can be absorbed into the ground in 32 weeks—they’re certified with the TUV home-compostable standard and the ink used on the packaging is vegetal i.e. water-based.

The set of 28 pouches is then packaged in a paperboard carton. In this case, machine and packaging suppliers were not able to be shared.

After launch, they received customer feedback that they would prefer a smaller, more compact box. The team drafted up new packaging designed to reflect the premium brand, while offering convenient deliveries and storage.

They introduced this letterbox-friendly carton in May 2020, which is made from at least 90% recycled paperboard. They researched to find an ethical supplier based in the EU to reduce greenhouse gas emissions during package transport.

A sleeve is only added to the outside of boxes in a retail environment to differentiate Life Stacks. Direct-to-consumer orders are placed inside the box only—without tertiary packaging—to help reduce the company’s packaging and environmental impact.

Continuously Evolving

The team at Nourished is consistently working to adapt and gain efficiency. This is made easier by the fact that their printers are manufactured in-house. In their ‘printer farm,’ they’re constantly building, optimizing, and developing their hardware.

When they came up with the concept of Nourished, there wasn’t a manufacturing process available that would allow them to achieve the level of customization they wanted. So, they spent around 18 months in R&D creating their own prototype. They also overcame formulation challenges. Some of the raw ingredients’ flavors are difficult to mask—especially ashwagandha—so they did a lot of R&D on what natural flavorings would complement and mask the range of 35 different ingredients they launched with.

Manufacturing the product and printers in-house gives Nourished control over their own supply chain, allowing them to ramp up production, adapt based on customer feedback, and it will also allow them to scale business into new markets and regions in the future. 

They currently market in the UK and U.S. and have plans to expand in Europe.

They continue to grow the list of sugar-free, vegan nutrients they offer.

They’re also growing their facilities, with plans to open a new, 20,000-sq-ft manufacturing site (their third in Birmingham) to increase production capacity by 1,000%.

In their work with Colgate, the partners are teaming up to deliver stacks specifically for oral care. As Snover explains, there are some exciting partnerships, new ingredients, and product ranges launching soon.

That’s all for today. See you next time at Take Five video for Healthcare Packaging.