Not all supplements are the same, argues Henrietta Norton. More than ten years ago, she had the idea of a dietary supplement company, wild food. She started it in her garden shed; today it sells across the UK and Europe, and now hopes to make more of an impression in the US market.
Trained as a nutritionist, Norton was formulating supplements for UK and European brands in 2010. While working for commercial supplement companies, she also advised individuals on an individual basis with their specific concerns. Seeing hundreds of women in her private clinic, she began to focus on women’s health, especially hormonal health. During this time, Norton began writing a book on endometriosis. When her editors asked her to recommend to readers which supplements might help, she was stuck. “I just couldn’t make recommendations with integrity. That’s when I knew I had to create them.
Food was not an easy path, admits Norton. “It’s a slower and more expensive way to make supplements, because of the sourcing involved. It’s less commercially viable, you might say. But it’s a better complement.
She knew from working with clients who used a diet-based approach to improving their hormonal health that it was the right way to go, even if it was more expensive and more difficult.
“Most of the synthetic ingredients used are of petrochemical origin. Not only are they less effective in the body, as our DNA is wired to receive nutrients through food, but they have wider implications. I strongly believe that human health is linked to planetary health.
Vitamin C, she explains, is a common example. Vitamin C in a plant contains about 50 different compounds. “Yet the supplement industry is focused on just one. Our body, however, is incredibly sophisticated and knows how to use the other 49 fractions, and in fact benefits from them. The reason I chose food culture is not just because the evidence is there, but because it’s a very respectful way to supplement the body. I believe that to create healing you have to support the whole body.
Norton started the business with her husband Charlie in 2013. Within three months they were at Whole Foods in the UK. Thanks to a friend-turned-advisor who helped them structure the business, Norton says, they were able to cope with the rapid scaling required.
Today, with around 48 employees, most of whom are based in Lewes, East Sussex in the UK, Norton is looking to target new markets. Although they ship internationally, Norton focuses on specific regions, such as the United States, where interest in natural supplements is growing.
Making dietary supplements has its challenges, however, Norton points out: it was difficult to convince manufacturers at first, because they were less inclined to deviate from their usual habits. The cost of dietary supplements can be 100% higher than its counterparts. And the sourcing of ingredients requires careful consideration: “There are many options on the market, but not all are created equal,” she says, referring to ingredients like turmeric, mushrooms and other herbs. and spices present in their formulations. Additionally, to pack the required dose requires more product per capsule: this can mean a heavier pill, which some consumers may not prefer.
Yet despite the bumps in the road, Norton has been able to steadily grow the business and help frame the narrative around natural supplements in the UK over the past decade.
“There has been a seismic shift in the supplement industry. Supplements are now in common conversation. They were ignored before. Also, we learned that soil deficiency is high. The food comes from all over the world. So we don’t get all the nutrients our body needs. And I see that more and more people are looking for natural supplements to remedy all this. Our fundamental reason for starting a business was to help educate and change the way the industry works, and I’m glad that’s happening.
Part of the educational component is achieved through a free 15 minute consultation that all customers are entitled to before purchasing any of their products. Trained nutritionists provide personalized advice to ensure customers get the right products. “It’s not just about putting products out there,” she repeats.
For Norton, building a business that reflects its values was integral. That’s why four years after launching the company, she began to consider becoming a B Corp. In 2018, the company started the process and was certified in 2021. “Sustainability is not just about maintaining what we have done in the past, but going beyond that. . What I like about B Corp is that we have to be reviewed every three years.
Environmentally, the company aims to be plastic-free. Additionally, they opted to bring their fulfillment in-house so they could further reduce packaging material. Now they are looking to reduce or offset their carbon footprint. But there’s also the social component of the business that Norton wants to polish.
“Sustainability in the broadest sense is also about how we can care for our people in a sustainable way.” In addition to hiring locally and creating jobs, Norton says the company recently made some changes to the employee handbook and provided a host of free services to its staff: yoga, counseling, financial counseling, for n to name a few.
“Human health is as important as planetary health,” she repeats.