We are excited to announce our investment in GEM, a consumer nutrition company that shares our belief that food is medicine.


GEM, which bills its Daily Nutrition Bites as the anti-vitamin, is reimagining the supplement industry by producing whole-food-based alternatives to existing vitamins and supplements. GEM’s core product is a “nutrient dense bite”, a small-format bar with concentrations of carefully selected food ingredients aimed at providing a variety of health benefits.


A Personal Journey that Turned into a Company

Sara Cullen has been passionate about food and nutrition since growing up on a farm in Oregon, but it wasn’t until she started experiencing a number of chronic inflammation issues that she realized that the nutritional supplements she used were not only insufficient, but exacerbating her symptoms. When allergy and blood tests revealed she was nutrient deficient she began a deep dive into the world of vitamins and supplements but she soon realized how little information was available about the ingredients in many products or how effective they were.

“GEM was born out of my personal health frustrations in which through countless doctor office visits and blood tests I discovered that despite eating a well-rounded diet, I still wasn’t getting the right nutrition for my body.”

- Sara Cullen, CEO and Founder of GEM


Her first company, plntwater, which she incubated out of Plant Life Ventures in 2015 after serving as a Fellow for Venture for America, opened her eyes to different types of plants that have incredible functional capabilities, most of which are almost completely unknown. Fueled by her frustration with the current supplement industry and her newfound knowledge of the benefits of nutrient dense foods, Cullen founded GEM in 2019 to expand access to clean whole-food alternatives to traditional vitamins and supplements. With her background in food and beverage product development and branding, she set out to reinvent the multivitamin with products that combine functional ingredients, vitamins, minerals, probiotics and more into a completely new form that is designed to work holistically rather than solely as a filler of gaps. Today GEM has reached 18,000+ subscribers and has shipped 6 million of the original Daily Essential Bites.



Replacing Pills and Powders with Food

Studies indicate that the vast majority of Americans are nutrient deficient. Our current food system is starved of nutritional density and diversity with most of the foods we eat today containing far fewer nutrients than they did half a century ago. While there are numerous supplement products available on the market, many contain unhealthy and undesirable ingredients such as added sugar, binders and artificial fillers. Many also provide a rapid release of nutrients and lack the necessary compounds found in real food which enable the efficient absorption of the nutrients they are intended to provide. On the other hand, our bodies slowly break down and metabolize the nutrients from real food in concert with critical plant compounds that help us absorb nutrients effectively.

“The more I researched, the more I realized just how much of an opportunity we have to enhance the way we deliver supplemental nutrition to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Under the simple philosophy that food is medicine, I built GEM to rethink vitamins with a product that has a simpler label and uses whole-food-based components, shifting the approach to vitamins from reductionism to holism.”

- Sara Cullen, CEO and Founder of GEM


By making supplements out of whole-food sustainable plant-based ingredients, GEM is developing products focused on optimal nutrient bioavailability that can truly provide meaningful health benefits. Each GEM bite contains key nutrients from whole food sources such as ashwagandha, chia, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas and quinoa. The ingredients in GEM bites are nutrient dense and often overlooked, such as spirulina and golden chlorella, two strains of algae which have numerous health benefits. One gram of spirulina contains all the major vitamins and minerals as well as all the amino acids typical of protein.


In addition to packing in the nutrition, GEM bites are designed to provide a new market for sustainable ingredients. Bites are composed of non-GMO, organic and sustainably sourced plant-based ingredients that are carbon negative whenever possible.



Creating a Community around Wellness

As a female-founded business, GEM aims to promote food-first natural alternative supplements for women.

“While I started building GEM as a solution for my own health ailment, I knew that in order to reimagine a larger more impactful approach to nutrition, I needed to first understand the common threads and frustrations of my story with that of the broader community.”

- Sara Cullen, CEO and Founder of GEM


The company first tested the market by creating a private beta community on Facebook that grew to more than 300 women by word of mouth, who came together to share inspiration around health and wellness. Many of the women had gone through endless searches for solutions to chronic ailments. They were tired of swallowing handfuls of pills and following complicated routines. Cullen was able to use the group to share initial product prototypes, collect data on members’ health frictions points, listen to the needs and wants of people of all ages and backgrounds, and continue iterating on the formulation until she could build a product that did not only work for her but for thousands of others as well.


The beta group has now transformed into a burgeoning micro-community of early adopters and evangelists, and the company has formed a rotating Customer Advisory Board out of the community which, according to Cullen, “helps provide real time feedback while ensuring we maintain a decentralized and iterative product development cycle where our customers always remain at the heart of whatever we create.”


GEM’s latest investment round will accelerate the company's product roadmap to address larger functional health categories where it can apply food-first innovations, scale its team, accelerate brand growth and kickstart retail expansion, making GEM accessible to all. We are excited to work with GEM to help consumers incorporate nutrient dense and underutilized ingredients into their diets to boost both human and planetary health.


Welcome GEM: Reimagining the Supplement Industry, One Bite at a Time

Welcome GEM: Reimagining the Supplement Industry, One Bite at a Time

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matthew Walker

Managing Director

Matthew Walker has over 10 years of experience in venture capital, investment banking and securities law. As Managing Director, Matthew’s efforts are focused on making investments, managing portfolio companies, and serving on various portfolio company boards. Matthew is interested in all things food and ag, with a particular interest in alternative protein, the intersection of food and health, supply chain technologies, and financial services.

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