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Ethical vegan supplements scoop sustainability award [Interview]

Article-Ethical vegan supplements scoop sustainability award [Interview]

Vitafoods Europe 23 | © Steve Burden Photography Terraseed - Vitafoods Europe 2023 Startup Innovation Challenge Winner: Most Innovative Sustainable Solution
Terraseed’s sustainable and ethical supplements for vegans was the winner in the Most Innovative Sustainable Solution category at the Vitafoods Startup Innovation Challenge. We spoke with Terraseed co-founder and CEO Maria Cebrian about her success, the challenges of launching a vegan multivitamins business in the US, and why in the end it was all worth it.

Terraseed was recognised at Vitafoods for its complete multivitamin, designed to resolve nutritional gaps in vegan and plant-based diets. The all-in-one vitamin is completely animal free, made with sustainably sourced ingredients, and packaged in 100% biodegradable packaging.

It was amazing to win, and felt like an acknowledgement of all our hard work,” says Cebrian. “It is hard to build a startup, even harder to build a supplement business, and even harder still to be committed to your mission. Being recognised for all this was super emotional, but really made me feel that every single challenge we overcame was worth it.

Embarking on a new adventure

Originally from Spain, Cebrian moved to the US after establishing and selling her second company – a yoga meditation business – and currently lives in Boulder, Colorado. Even with entrepreneurial experience and success behind her however, nothing fully prepared her for the adventure she was about to embark on.

I’m a long-distance mountain runner, and have always cared about the environment,” she says. “This is the reason I became vegan. Running long distance races and training however made me worried about meeting my nutritional needs. This is when I took the decision to start supplementing.

Cebrian describes this as one of her worst experiences. Horrified by the amount of plastic packaging and animal-based ingredients involved, she set out to find a way of supplementing her diet in a manner that was fully aligned with her vegan values and lifestyle. This is how the concept of Terraseed came about.

Overcoming startup challenges

Cebrian immediately recognised that this was a tough category to crack. The US market alone is highly fragmented, with something like 150,000 products on the shelf. This makes it very difficult to stand out.

It is also a very technical category. “I had to learn everything from scratch,” says Cebrian. “I enjoy learning new things though, so this was the perfect challenge. At the end of the day, there is a set of problems you have to solve.

These challenges included sourcing ingredients not derived from animals, as will identifying suppliers that could guarantee sustainability. “We scouted the world to find companies that were manufacturing ingredients with sustainability in mind,” says Cebrian. “This involved a great deal of detective work.

Other challenges included finding a contract manufacturer interested in investing in R&D for a bespoke client like Terraseed, as well as formulating a multivitamin and delivery system that could deliver the required functional benefits.

A final challenge was packaging,” says Cebrian. “We settled on a tube made of cellulose – something that has never been used before to package supplements. We had to really understand all the specs, including how it performs, how it seals, and how it protects the product from air and humidity. All our mailing is done with recycling paper.

In line with consumer values

Cebrian had to analyse every single aspect of bringing a sustainable vegan supplement to market – and succeeded. The company is currently planning to launch a second product – multivitamins for kids. This will be packaging in a biodegradable child-proof bottle.

I don’t know how many companies would be willing to invest the time and money in bringing a vegan supplement to market,” she says. “The costs are higher. But we are not just about making money – we want to have a real impact on the world, and stop plastic pollution from the supplements industry.

Cebrian believes this commitment to sustainability and vegan values is resonating with consumers. “What we do is connected to people’s values,” she says. “I think we are doing what many consumers want brands to be doing.