The Bay Area company just announced this week that it has secured $1.4 million in funding, totaling to $1.9 million in investments. Among its latest round of investors is Unilever Ventures, the eponymous private equity arm of the global food giant.
While most microbiome test kit companies only offer information on the gut, maybe also a nutrition plan, Thryve follows the footsteps of companies like Care/Of and Vitamin Packs by offering a subscription to supplements (in Thryve's case, specifically probiotic supplements) recommended based on a questionnaire and gut test kit results.
The company pegs itself as “the nation's first monthly microbiome testing and personalized probiotics subscription, [providing] consumers with knowledge of their own gut bacteria.”
A quick google search for 'personalized probiotics' brings back results of companies with a similar concept, including an Alabama-based company called ProTrea and another one in the Czech Republic called Probione.
Lin started the company two years ago after taking antibiotics and ending up in the hospital. Feeling dismissed by the multiple doctors he consulted with, he started to learn more about the gut and the microbiome, he told NutraIngredients-USA. That’s where his interest in probiotics first started.
The following has been edited for length and clarity
Several microbiome and probiotic companies have popped up in the past few years. What was the gap in the market you wanted fill?
“We think there are two markets we’re in. There’s the microbiome side that’s just starting to get saturated, and there's the probiotics side that is so fragmented, there are so many different brands. So we don’t look at ourselves as a microbiome company or a probiotics company. We’re more of a gut health company. We look at the microbiome testing, the food and prebiotic recommendations, and the probiotics.”
How many customers have used Thryve so far?
“We officially launched in February of 2017, but our testing kit and the personalized probiotics weren’t really offered until February of this year. So being live and fully functioning started three months ago.
We’ve processed close to 6,000 kits so far…We’ve had the whole gamut of men and women, aged 18 to 65. I think our core customer base is the middle age woman, anywhere from 35 to 65 plus, caucasian, and in the US. We pretty much have a customer in every state. We also have customers in China, the UK, Australia and Japan.
We’re available globally, but we’re mainly focused in the US right now.”
When it comes to data on the microbiome, what makes Thryve different from other players in the microbiome and probiotics space?
“How we’re different—all these other companies don’t have enough data to provide any actionable information. They can tell you exactly what bacteria is in your body and at what percentages, but they don’t tell you why it actually matters, and what you can do about it.
The reason why is that there are about 36,000 microbiome research articles in PubMed right now. That’s a lot of scientific literature to summarize, and we’ve actually built our own software that uses natural language processing and machine learning to pull in the meta-data of tens of thousands of species of microbes. We can tell you specifically about microbes, the health benefits, their side effects, so on and so forth.
We use every single research article that’s publicly available and we grade it based on if it’s in vivo testing or was it in vitro? Human clinical studies? How long? How large was the sample size? We grade it by strong research, medium research, emerging research, and mixed research, so every recommendation we give to the consumer is graded based on how far the science is [to give them] transparency.”
Tell me about Thryve’s probiotic strains, and how you recommend them to customers.
“The other side of our business is the personalized probiotic. We don’t have a generic, off-the-shelf probiotic, we work with multiple manufacturers from Asia to Europe, to the US, in order to curate a library of strains based on functional benefits. We’ll personalize different strains for each individual based on their health goals and needs. No other microbiome company does this.
We recommend based on a questionnaire, which makes 80% to 95% of our personalization. The other 10% comes from looking at [at-home test results]. If we see an overgrowth of certain bad bacteria, we’ll incorporate different strains of probiotics or prebiotics and vitamins to lower those counts. That’s how our algorithm works right now, but as the science grows, we get more data, and that ratio can switch.
The way we choose those strains, we look at the top health need that consumers are running into, and we choose those strains based on [information from] the manufacturers and the research companies in the probiotic space about which strains can fulfill those functional needs.”
What probiotic strains do you use in your products? Any branded forms?
“We have around 30 plus strains in our catalogue, including Lactobacillus strains to Bifidobacterium. I can’t share our manufacturing partners and brands yet, we’re still working on exclusive partnership with them so we want to get that signed off before we publicly announce who they are, but there are partners from Asia, Europe, and the US.
Meal plan and nutrition recommendations based on the microbiome
Companies like Thryve and Israel-based DayTwo recommend different meal and nutrition plans for their subscribers based on the gut microbiome composition revealed from an at-home test kit. DayTwo said that its proprietary algorithm "accurately predicts personalized postprandial glycemic response to real life meals," and the company positions itself around blood sugar management.
Watch our interview with DayTwo CEO and co-founder Lihi Segal HERE. (Originally published 11/15/16)
These strains are already in the US FDA food system.”
Quality control can be especially tedious for personalized nutrition companies. How do you make sure everything complies with Good Manufacturing Practices?
“All our probiotic-manufactures are GMP certified. We don’t actually handle any of the probiotic products ourselves.
When they get shipped over to us in the US, if we have international suppliers, they go to another company that bottles it up for us, and they also have GMP certification. Then they just send it off to the customers. We never actually touch it.
We double test it. The manufacturer tests it with a certification of analysis making sure that all the CFUs are accounted for in the probiotics and there aren’t any pathogenic microorganisms in the handling process. Then we run another set of tests when they arrive at the bottling company.
After all that, then we send it to the customer.”
What’s next for Thryve?
“What we envision in the next 3-5 years is that every single person globally is going to be testing themselves, not only in the gut but also the skin, the mouth—we have microbiomes everywhere.
We see the family—starting with the mother first, then to the father, then kids, and finally pet. So we see ourselves expanding not just in human health but also veterinary health.
The microbiome is a huge portion of our health, and the biggest way to influence that is through food, and probiotics are definitely a supplement to that food.
There’s a huge opportunity on how different types of vitamins and supplements can influence the microbiome…It’s not our main focus now but we do see ourselves in the next six to nine months introducing some types of vitamins by using the microbiome as the benchmark of which ones you should take.”
Interested to learn more about personalized nutrition and the microbiome? Join us at Probiota Americas 2018 in Miami, June 5-7
From the microbiome in precision medicine to personalized probiotics for sports nutrition, and from next-gen analytical advances to how online customer engagement is driving the market, Probiota Americas will again bridge the science and business of the booming prebiotics and probiotics categories. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE AND TO REGISTER