Tech entrepreneur 3D prints candy for better health
A new firm launched today is offering what it describes as the world’s first 3D-printed vitamin and supplement ‘gummy’.
Created and designed by serial Birmingham tech entrepreneur and Dragons' Den survivor Melissa Snover, the product is created by piping a sugar-free vegan formula into a seven-layer chewable sweet.
Customers select their seven layers from a possible 28 vitamin and supplement options after completing a lifestyle questionnaire, and a month’s worth of the daily chews are then ‘printed’ to order and delivered to the door.
Snover began the technique of 3D-printing edible gummy candy as founder and MD of Katjes Magic Candy Factory, which prints customised logos and images in candy, a technique that would come to inspire applications far beyond novelty.
Her new venture, Nourished, was inspired after an accident during her travels.
“I used to carry around a plastic bag of vitamins with me everywhere I went. I was in airport security in Dusseldorf, and my plastic bag of vitamins spilled all over the floor, which is horrible,” she told BusinessCloud.
“I'm on the floor, picking up these vitamins and I'm thinking ‘there's got to be a better way to do this'."
The thought reminded her that she had the technology already at her disposal. The idea of adding supplements and vitamins to a base of vegan sugar-free candy was born.
“No one's ever done anything like this, combining seven materials into one single chewable thing. Even in plastic, seven layers has never been done.”
Snover and her team began using the 3D printers to create a ‘stack’, a chewable produced from seven different 3D printers adding one layer at a time.
She and her team realised that the level of customisation possible during production would also allow them to cut down on the waste traditionally associated with manufacturing seven or more separate vitamins and supplements.
“If you think about traditional factories, making tons and tons of a single thing, and then you think of a 3D printer that's making one thing at a time that's unique, we've come to the middle where we can make 28 of the same thing really fast, but they're all unique,” she said.
It also allows the firm to remain agile to the ever-changing trends of the health and wellness market.
“Traditional factories and companies take 18 months to three years to develop a new item. This gives us a massive opportunity to really truly respond to the market, new research trends, what people want. And I think that will really take up our time for at least the next 18 months,” she said.
Adding new ingredients to the gummies also allowed for the company to think beyond supplements and into medication with its medicinal arm, Scripted.
The firm has been working on medicinal use for 17 months, and the concept is at the human trial stage.
“I think that the future implications and possibilities for Scripted are way more far-reaching than Nourished, because customised medicine is a must,” she said.
“The fact that right now our medicine isn't customised is quite shocking. Your T-shirt is more customised than your medicine.”
Snover hopes that the same gummy will allow the young and very old to take combinations of medications in a single customised chew, while reducing the waste associated with traditional medicine production at an industrial scale.
“There's a huge amount of drugs being thrown away. This is a major problem,” she explained.
“Each one of the health organisations has different rules, and also has a different view on 3D.
“We're working with the ones that are the warmest to the idea, and if we can get a pilot out to market, and show the benefits that it has to both the patients and the health organisation, then we can start to get the world to take notice of it and see the ways that you can apply it.”