3D printed vitamins meeting growing demand for personalised nutrition

Posted on September 16, 2020 by Alistair Hardaker

Major technological advances in the food production industry have created a space for forward-thinking firms like Nourished, the world’s first bespoke 3D vitamin printing start-up.

Using a patented pectin formula, it allows customers to combine seven active ingredients in one edible ‘gummy’ to suit their own health needs – whether it is addressing a deficiency in a certain vitamin or trying to achieve a specific goal.

Martyn Catchpole, Chief Technological Officer at Nourished, spent 18 months researching the ideal technology to help the firm stand apart from competitors using traditional methods.

He said: “There are many reasons why 3D printing allows us to create a better end product compared to the mass-produced process of traditional vitamin supplements.

“One of the main reasons is that we are able to deal with certain factors that can affect the efficacy of the vitamin, such as light, heat, moisture or how individual vitamins react to each other.

“With mass-produced supplements, there might be two years between them leaving the factory and arriving on your shelf at home, which can have an impact on how much goodness you will absorb.

“Over the past two years there has been a major shift in consumers’ demands towards personalisation and a move away from ‘one size fits all’ manufacturing.

“People are more aware than ever of the importance of nutrition to meet their needs, their dietary requirements, their health goals and so on.

“As a technology company, rather than just a vitamin or health company, we are able to use processes and products that are much more tailored to the customer’s needs.”

Based in Birmingham, Nourished was the brainchild of serial entrepreneur Melissa Snover and the business is growing fast since launching in October 2019, with its team of around 40 employees set to expand.

The one-a-day gummies reportedly have a 99 per cent higher efficacy and 70 per cent higher absorption rate than traditional mass-produced vitamin supplements.

As it’s a food-based product, Nourished uses a hybrid manufacturing model, rather than the more common Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) that tends to use plastic as the printing material.

Customers fill out a questionnaire online to create their bespoke vitamin profile, choosing seven active ingredients from a range of 28, including Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Iron and Ginger Extract, as well as super-foods such as Maca Powder, Ashwagandha and Tart Cherry.

A movement instruction file is produced and sent to the printing machine, with the process taking around ten minutes to produce the multi-layered gummies.

Catchpole said a lot of work went into finding the technology that would cater to such specific demands, but believes Nourished will provide an example for food producers to embrace new methods.

He said: “It’s all about using technology in the most effective way to improve on traditional manufacturing methods and achieve a specific purpose.

“We use a hybrid model to allow us to provide total customisation of vitamins with our patented pectin encapsulation, giving customers complete control over their stacks.

“The printing process takes five to 10 minutes, with the printer using a movement instruction file to tell it how to move and when to deposit the gummy material.

“With Nourished, the stacks are individually presented in packaging that is entirely compostable and sustainable, so opening the seal on one does not affect the other stacks.

“I believe there is a huge potential for growth for 3D printing in the food and health markets over the next decade.

“Consumers today are more discerning than ever before and the demand for more personalisation should not be at the expense of quality ingredients.”

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