When you can order a meatless Whopper or a Dunkin’ Donuts “sausage” breakfast sandwich from the drive-thru, you know that plant-based eating has officially gone the mainest of mainstream. But while the vegan-friendly-food industry is booming, the supplement sector is lagging behind on this front, and as a result, it means many meat- and dairy-free eaters may not be getting all the vitamins they need. Experiencing the nutrition gap firsthand prompted Lisa Gonzalez-Turner, who is vegan, to create Wholier, a supplement brand that launches today.
“I have been a vegan for many years. I love the lifestyle, but I do struggle with some things,” Gonzalez-Turner says. “Beyond supplementing, it’s [been difficult to find] brands that truly align with my values and put my needs first. I’m a vegan, but I don’t position myself with the crunchy brands that exist today. I don’t live on a commune. I don’t knit my skirts out of hemp. I’m a normal person who lives in the real world and chose the vegan path.”
“I’m a vegan, but I don’t position myself with the crunchy brands that exist today.” —Lisa Gonzalez-Turner, founder of Wholier
While Wholier is Gonzalez-Turner’s first venture as a solo entrepreneur, she’s no stranger to the startup food space. Before launching Wholier, she worked at the superfood frozen meal delivery service Daily Harvest and the healthy Indian grab-and-go eatery Inday, where she was a founding member and worked in business development. In both these positions, she connected daily with millennials who were interested in plant-based eating, but often felt lost.
“After speaking with hundreds of vegan-ish people, I found that many struggled with supplementing, as I did,” she says. “Figuring out which nutrients to take and then purchasing a bunch of single-nutrient vitamins and taking them every morning [is a challenge]. Then, you can feel nauseous if you take them all on an empty stomach. It’s a really bad experience. I wanted to take the guesswork out of supplementing a vegan, vegetarian, or mostly plant-based diet by creating a single multivitamin with everything you need and nothing extra.”
Gonzalez-Turner worked with a doctor and team of nutritionists to tailor a formula for Wholier’s supplements. “Together, we combed through hundreds of clinical studies on vegan and vegetarian populations to narrow in on the specific nutrients that you commonly miss out on when leading a plant-based lifestyle,” she says. They ended up landing on vitamin B12, iron, vitamin D, iodine, vitamin K2 (sourced from fermented chickpeas), zinc, omega-3, and D3.
But creating the supplement wasn’t as easy as sticking eight nutrients into a capsule. First, Gonzalez-Turner wanted to make sure the formula had maximum bioavailability, meaning the nutrients would be easily and effectively absorbed into your bloodstream. This would prevent anyone taking them from, first, feeling nauseous, or second, just peeing ’em out. Because vitamins D, K2, and iron are fat soluble, the inclusion of fats like omega-3 (sourced from spirulina) and D3 (sourced from algae) can help with the multivitamin’s efficacy.
Gonzalez-Turner also prioritized safe sourcing, which can be a tricky in the supplement business. “Each batch is tested three times during the manufacturing process: the ingredients, the beadlets, and the finished capsule,” Gonzalez-Turner says. “These tests confirm three things: that what’s on the label is in the capsules; the capsules are safe, based on toxicology reports; and there are no contaminants or undeclared ingredients in the capsules.”
Beyond the products, Gonzalez-Turner wants Wholier’s branding to feel inclusive and welcoming, rather than judgy or preachy. “The cultural guardrails and rules to aligning yourself with the plant-based lifestyles can sometimes feel restrictive,” she says. “Wholier is a brand for the veganish-vegan, on your own terms.”
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