Over the last few years, an influx of health and supplement companies have launched, positioning themselves as the latest and greatest in lifestyle wellness brands. It’s no surprise, as the global wellness economy has grown over 12.8% from 2015-2017 making the industry worth $4.5 trillion as of 2018. A more recent study stated that just the global supplement industry alone is worth $123.28 billion growing at a CAGR of 8.2%.
HUM Nutrition launched in 2012 ahead of the boom because its founders saw wellness as the next big thing before others did. Often pioneer brands like HUM Nutrition don’t end up reaping the benefits; however in this case HUM has continued to lead the pack with its unique innovative approach. As the industry continues to grow at a rapid pace, consumers are becoming more and more overwhelmed and skeptical about what actually works.
With some brands offering many promises but little to no information or resources on why their supplements work and how to best take them, their customers are often left with an aesthetically pleasing package collecting dust in the back of their medicine cabinet. HUM Nutrition was born out of a personal journey and its approach to connecting with consumers mirrors the one thing that ultimately led to game changing results for its co- founder & CEO Walter Faulstroh: knowledge. Instead of over-focusing on selling, HUM heavily invested in technology and made their first hire a Director of Education.
Faulstroh began his career in technology. When it came time to start his own company, his entrepreneurial spirit led him to the wellness industry where he could make money while improving consumers’ lives. He didn’t think the two had to be mutually exclusive. During the launch of his first venture, the vitamin-enhanced water brand V Water, Faulstroh was struggling with adult acne. His skin problems turned into a long and expensive journey plastered with failures until he worked with a nutritionist that understood the gut-skin connection well before dermatologists did. The solution that was presented to him was healing his gut through nutrition and proper supplementation which, in turn, ended up curing his acne. Faulstroh discovered that beauty really did come from within – and HUM was born. Faulstroh and his co-founder Christopher Coleridge agreed that the mission of HUM Nutrition would be to make everyone feel good from the inside out and for that they had to democratize the wellness space. In addition to clean clinical formulations at reasonable price points, they wanted to offer free nutritional education led by experts in order to break down the barrier to entry.
“When it came to building HUM, I never wanted to put red tape between access to knowledge and the consumer,” says Faulstroh. The HUM Founders believed, rightly, that connecting with this untapped audience by offering free resources and tools to those who may not be able to afford top tier nutrition or dermatological advice would create long term growth for the brand. It could be said HUM was ahead of their time when they launched in 2012 with a technology-first approach. From the onset, their site was powered with on-demand nutritionists accessible to the consumer to chat with about their concerns. HUM’s proprietary online quiz pairs every consumer with the perfectly curated selection of products, each rooted in clinical research with every ingredient carefully sourced and triple- tested by independent labs for quality and purity. In addition to their technology first approach, the founders also banked on their experience with disruptive marketing to make up for their limited start-up budget.
Prior to HUM, vitamins were sold in basic, black, white and brown labeled bottles. HUM created an iconic and colorful brand that, because of their aesthetic and focus on specific concerns, moved vitamins from being hidden in the cabinet to being displayed on the counter – creating buzz and brand recognition on social media. An omni-channel strategy has enabled the company to become the leading nutrition brand in prestige beauty. Its success has led retailers such as Sephora and Nordstrom to completely rethink their offering and create a new category dedicated to beauty through wellness.“HUM has changed the vitamin game by truly raising the bar through innovation, which we are very proud of,” says Coleridge.
The company has become the category reference brand with relatively little investment. To date, HUM has raised $23M from a small group of investors including Sonoma Brands, Circle Up and Imaginary Ventures. “We captured the zeitgeist and are transforming the way people approach beauty, with millions of new users now tapping into our free online resources,” says Faulstroh. HUM seems to have reinvented the vitamin experience by thinking through every little detail from branding, to education, to distribution and thereby bringing in the next generation of consumers. With over 40 formulations and numerous awards, the company has seen quarterly growth of 30 percent for the last 12 quarters.
During the pandemic, the company has seen an additional increase in sales. “HUM happens to be extremely well-positioned for three reasons. Firstly, if you look at vitamin sales throughout the last recession in 2008, you will notice that the category grew by 5% while the economy dipped. We are talking about a multibillion-dollar industry here, so 5% growth is very impressive. Secondly, HUM delivers outstanding quality, we formulate with clinically proven nutrients at a very compelling price point. Thirdly, our core business is online, so even with the closure of a significant amount of retail stores, we were able to increase revenue by gaining 160% new online customers in Q2 vs Q1 of this year. This is also reflected in our website traffic, which has pretty much doubled over the same time period,” explained Faulstroh.
As for the future of HUM Nutrition, Faulstroh plans on expanding into mental wellbeing and its direct correlation to the gut. “The microbiome and mental wellbeing are of great interest to us as this is a very real and pressing issue that our consumers are facing. We always like to push the envelope by combining the latest scientific research with products that solve real problems.”