“Throughout my years of practice, I realized that while brain surgery saves or improves many people’s lives, I could potentially assist a much wider population with understanding and maintaining their brain health,” the neurosurgeon and co-founder of VitaMind Dr. Markus Chwajol, told NutraIngredients-USA.
In a set of two 16.9 oz glass bottles, Dr. Chwajol and his business partner, entrepreneur Dan Powell, want to serve consumers a concoction that contains what they call the ‘four pillars of fundamental healthy cognition’: Citicoline (they use Kyowa-Hakko’s Cognizin), Cereboost, triglycerides (in the form of coconut MCT oil), and omega-3 fatty acids (from fish oil).
The two became a friends ever since Powell’s time as a hospital equipment salesman, when he first met Dr. Chwajol, and later became one of his patients. Powell himself has been interested in nutrition and ‘brain hacking’, coming up with recipes for beverages and coffees to help him maintain brain health.
Choosing the ingredient: Citicoline
One popular ingredient in many brain-health drinks on the market today is Citicoline.
As a neurosurgeon, Dr. Chwajol said that, while he currently is not involved in direct bench research on brain health supporting compounds, “I did extensive research on Acetylcholine and Acetylcholine receptors as an undergraduate student in neurosciences at Columbia University.”
“At that time, Acetylcholine (Citicoline) was not thought of as a substance to be offered in wide commercial use. I found it unusual since Acetylcholine is a very safe constituent and has been on the safe and available for commercial use FDA list for years,” he added.
“I realized that the general population may potentially benefit from regular intake of Acetylcholine, and also started looking into other compounds with potential mental health benefits.”
Liquid was the way to go
Liquid was the best way to deliver these key nutrients to the brain, the co-founders argued. “We wanted to make sure people get the correct dosage,” Powell said. “We looked at [a pill] serving size, and you actually need about 15 pills to get just one serving size.”
Based on Dr. Chwajol’s analysis of existing scientific literature on the ingredients, the team decided it was best to deliver the supplements in two separate liquids—a fat-base (Coconut MCT oil and fish oil) and water-base (Cognizin, Cereboost, vitamin B complex, magnesium, and spirulina). Consumers are to drink a spoonful (the caps double as measuring cups) of each liquid once a day, for 30 days.
The supplements sell for $69.99 for a set and come in three flavors—coconut, orange, pomegranate. There were concerns that the process may be too cumbersome, but Powell said there are many people who already have the routine of taking spoonfuls of a dietary supplement daily who can be early adapters of the concept. “There’s a market already of people taking fish oil by the spoon daily, and this is just one additional spoonful,” Powell added.
Clicks over bricks for the supplement line
VitaMind targets the fitness crowd and the currently male-dominated group of so-called early adapters or ‘biohackers’ (which Powell described as people who like to ‘combine not well known ingredients’ to improve daily performance and function, both mentally and physically).
But in the long term, Powell said the company has its eyes set on becoming a household name, serving everyone from children of eight years to the elderly. “It may seem broad, but every single person must learn to take care of their brain,” Powell said.
The liquid supplement line may seem niche at the moment, but VitaMind also has a line of brick-and-mortar retail-focused coconut beverages that Powell hopes can increase consumer awareness of the company. These beverages, with a nutrition facts panel, have the tagline ‘all natural, brain energy’ and come in mango, chocolate, pineapple, or plain coconut flavor.
As for the liquid supplements, Powell thought its best to focus its sales through e-commerce. “Education is the number one reason,” he said. “You can get more information from a social media post, or an ad…We may test this at a GNC or a VitaminShoppe to see if it is picked up, but we want to educate people first and then get it into stores.”