VitalFit Nutrition, based in Boston, Mass. and founded by two friends from business school, was initially created to fulfill a need after an injury. However, in creating an alternative to pain medication, VitalFit Nutrition has evolved into a successful plant-based nutrition company. We sat down with Cameron Fischer and Alfred Shofield, the founders of this cutting edge company to learn about their products, but more importantly how they are disrupting the supplement industry with their collaborative approach.
MJ: What was your motivation to create VitalFit Nutrition?
VF: We originally started VitalFit as a part of our graduate school thesis project at Babson. What was a gripe with commissioned sales clerks, flashy marketing and lack of industry accountability, turned into our full-time venture! However, it was a back injury from playing basketball that actually led us to our first product.
MJ: What is different about your sales model?
VF: We think there are two things that make our sales model different. First, our product design process and second, our distribution network.
In a time where partnerships are often decided on based on social reach, we use our product design process to build genuine relationships with influencers who help us reach our consumers. We dislike the pay for play marketing that is in many ways, running the health and wellness space right now. A company typically looks for a high-impact influencer who they can pay and supply product to in exchange for posts and promotions. While this strategy undoubtedly drivestraffic, we don’t think it builds a genuine connection between the brand and its consumers. More likely, the approach contributes to health-trend culture and the spread of misinformation—it’s abig reason for why there’s so much distrust in the industry in the first place.
Our approach to influencer partnerships is much different. We invite them into our product design process, essentially giving them a stake in our brand. Because we create together, we end up with products they genuinely want to use and a relationship that exists outside a paycheck, which has helped us grow our direct to consumer sales ten-fold. Our customers realize this isn’tjust another sponsored advertisement. It’s an authentic endorsement with a relationship behind it.
MJ: When did you make the connection and notice the gap in what is available to professional athletes and consumers and realize that VitalFit can bridge that gap?
VF: A chance injury during a pickup game of basketball helped us discover this gap. We were stuck in a bit of a rut one afternoon (this was when we were just starting out) so we decided to take a break and head down to the basketball court. A few minutes into the game, I realized somethingwasn’t right with my back. A day later, the pain was worse. Three days after that, it still persisted. A trip to the doctor revealed I had actually herniated a disc. I was taking a lot of ibuprofen to deal with the pain but after a few days, my stomach couldn’t handle it anymore. I reached out to an integrative physician we work with who suggested I try drinking tart cherry juice for its anti-inflammatory profile. I couldn’t believe how much it helped and how fast itworked. From personal experience and our observations in the field, we knew the fitness community was using ibuprofen more than they should to help with post-workout soreness and joint pain. We instantly made the tart cherry connection and have been working on innovative, plant-based recovery products ever since!
MJ: What is optimal nutrition?
VF: Optimal nutrition looks different for everyone. But when we think about “optimal” nutrition, wethink that it is nutrition that allows you the utmost freedom and powers your body to accomplish your goals.
MJ: Where are your products being sold?
VF: VitalFit can be found in a variety of spots. All of our products are available direct from the VitalFit website. (www.vitalfitnutrition.com) In addition, you can find us at many independent health food stores, fitness studios, medical practices, or gyms throughout New England. We also have a few online partners as well. Two especially important partners for us are Cambridge Naturals (the first retail store to carry our products) and The Feed, an online store that aggregates all of the top athletic supplements (they named our tart cherry one of the top anti-inflammatories of the year so far!)
MJ: You look to fitness professionals for insights on VitalFit Nutrition products. Are there other segments you think that would benefit from embracing VitalFit Nutrition?
VF: One of our mottos are, “The intersection between lifestyle and performance.” One of the first gaps we want to close is that middle ground. We saw a ton of performance products and just as many general health products, but nothing really in-between. Our products will definitely help with athletic performance, but the very nature of them, as recovery products, makes them applicable to a much larger audience. For example, our product source helps restore natural energy levels by helping your body produce its own natural energy, something that becomes increasingly more difficult as we age. Because we work with integrative physicians to design products like these, we think it makes them especially attractive to the anti-aging segment.
MJ: What is the single most important message you would like to offer our readers who are trying to stay healthy and be innovative business leaders?
VF: The key to staying active is rest, not excess. It’s less about pushing limits, more about restoringwhen we do.