Go ahead, feel good about taking nutritional supplements. Just don't think about the fact that they might not contain whatever it is you think is good about them.
As an investigation by the New York Attorney General's office recently revealed, many dietary supplements contain ingredients that aren't found on the label—with the supposed active ingredient often left out. This leaves you, say, with ginseng supplements containing rice and pine, but no ginseng.
Ora, a nutritional supplement startup that uses only plant-based ingredients in its products, is in some ways a reaction to this disturbing trend.
Unlike other supplements, which often contain synthetic vitamins, Ora's are made from fruits and vegetables. Other companies have started to do this, but Ora claims to be the first to figure out how to make a plant-based version of vitamin B12 (the key: shiitake mushrooms).
The company's first products, available now with the login code "orabegins2015", are twists on the familiar. Rather than fish oil, there's an Omega-3 organic pineapple spray. There's also a dairy and whey-free superfood vanilla chai protein- and dairy-free organic probiotics. The first plant-based organic multivitamin is also in the pipeline.
Today, there is little regulation by the FDA in the supplement space, and it shows. In addition to mislabeled ingredients, there are other anecdotal problems in the industry. One of Ora's co-founders, Raja Dhir, says he heard of one goji berry supplier that found spiders in a batch of product—and then still put it on sale in order to save money.
"We were diligent about what we ate, knowledgable about pesticide use, but one area that we realized was lacking was nutritional supplements—we couldn’t pronounce a lot of the ingredients, and there were lots of fillers and binders," says the other co-founder Will Smelko. "It's one of the big areas where the FDA has fallen flat."
Ora's Omega 3 spray is made using algae instead of fish oil. According to Smelko, the fact that the supplement is a spray gives it an edge over competitors because liquid Omega 3, found in fish oil, oxidizes each time the cap is opened, causing an inflammatory response in the body. Since Ora's spray goes directly into the mouth, this doesn't happen. Plus, there are no disgusting fishy burps afterwards.
The supplements aren't cheap—Ora's products are significantly more expensive than competitor supplements. But the plant-based nature of the supplements may be enough to convince plenty of customers of their worth. "We want to let people decide for themselves if plant-based nutrients are better," says Dhir.
Ora is running a launch special for Fast Company's readers valid until June 17. Get 30% discount on Ora's first three products by using the code "oralaunch" at checkout. Use the login code "orabegins2015" to enter the website