Backed by more than 40 years of research experience, innovation and scientific expertise, Acutia is a continuation of the legacy of innovation established by the late founder of Alltech, Dr. Pearse Lyons. Nikki Putnam Badding, registered dietitian nutritionist and managing director of Acutia, joins the Ag Future podcast to discuss the origins of Acutia and how its innovative packaging and refill system might help mitigate the prolific waste problem associated with the supplement industry.
The following is an edited transcript of the Ag Future podcast episode with Nikki Putnam Badding hosted by Tom Martin. Click below to hear the full audio or listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
Tom: Welcome to Ag Future, presented by Alltech. Join us as we explore the challenges and opportunities facing the global food supply chain and speak with experts working to support a Planet of Plenty.
Alltech has, for years, been a global leader in the animal health industry. But now, the company is taking more than 40 years of scientific innovation and proven nutrition expertise and is applying all of that knowledge to human health. I'm Tom Martin, and joining me is Nikki Putnam Badding with the story of Acutia, the Alltech human health line. A registered dietitian/nutritionist, Nikki is its managing director. Hi, Nikki.
Nikki: Hi, Tom.
Tom: So, tell us a bit about your background.
Nikki: Sure. I'm a registered dietitian, and I have a background in research, nutrition counseling and retail dietetics. And now, I'm the director of human nutrition initiatives at Alltech and (am), as you mentioned, also the managing director of Acutia, where I oversee the business strategy (and) product formulation and manage companywide operations.
Tom: Am I right that the origins of Acutia can be traced to Dr. Pearse Lyons and two of Alltech’s flagship organic nutrition solutions, Sel-Plex and Bio-Mos? How did Acutia come about? If you could, give us the backstory.
Nikki: Of course. You’re absolutely right about that. And long before I joined Alltech, (the company’s founder) Dr. Pearse Lyons took interest in the application of Alltech products to human health. And it was a natural fit, because those with a science background know that animal health and human health are very closely linked. So, a new division of the company was created: Alltech Life Sciences, where the research scientists focused on utilizing internal expertise gleaned from (the company’s) experience in the animal health industry and applied that to human health — including the first iteration of human health supplements of the company — and (were) also carrying out clinical trial work.
And then, in 2013, I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Pearse Lyons myself during my job interview, in which I was proposing that Alltech hire me as their first registered dietitian on staff. So, he and I had a cup of tea, and thankfully, I got the job. And in true Dr. Lyons fashion, he sent me away with a 900-page book on selenium, asked me to read it and jot down a few notes and then start work the next week with a business plan for a human health supplement company. I read that book. I still have it here in my office today. And I put together a plan. And while, admittedly, Tom, it wasn't a very good plan — it sat unused — but the desire of Dr. Lyons to provide high-quality, effective, safe and attainable nutrition for people interested in improving in their health still remained.
So, in 2018, five years later, Dr. Lyons asked me to revisit the idea of a human health business by joining an internal incubator, where a few of my colleagues and I were able to begin hashing out a true business plan to bring this idea to life. And then, in March of 2021, we launched Acutia.
Tom: Is Acutia an example of a business that emerged from the Pearse Lyons Cultivator? I think you just mentioned that — the Alltech program that mentors entrepreneurs and provides resources to help them take a startup company to the market. Is that the path that it followed?
Nikki: Yes, absolutely. As you well know, Alltech’s company culture emphasizes curiosity, creativity and entrepreneurship. So, within the program, we were given the time and, maybe most importantly, the space to explore new ideas to provide better solutions for our customers, meet the unmet needs of the industry, and maybe even do things that we had never done before as a company. So, Acutia’s true beginning as a business, yes, started within that program, with extensive support from many of my experienced and knowledgeable colleagues and a few external business experts.
Tom: Well, Alltech is known worldwide as an animal health organization, and I'm just wondering: Why did the company want to enter the human health side, and how does that align with their current business purpose?
Nikki: That's a really good question. Alltech was founded on the ACE principle, which brought focus to safety and benefits — that everything we would do would benefit the animal, the consumer and the environment. So, Alltech has since expanded upon that with our Planet of Plenty mission, whereby, working together with others, we can improve the lives of people, plants and animals while also ensuring a world of abundance.
Acutia carries forward not only, then, Alltech’s legacy of innovation and that entrepreneurial spirit that I mentioned, but we're also guided by that Planet of Plenty mission — supporting the healthier tomorrow for our customers by connecting that science that we're so good at (with) sustainability and wellness.
Tom: Acutia offers a trio of supplements; two of them, Acutia Selenium and Acutia Brain Health, are now available. The third, Acutia Digestive Health, is on the horizon. Let's take a look at each of those.
Tell us first about Acutia Selenium.
Nikki: Sure. So, selenium is so important because it helps maintain a healthy immune system — something that all of us are interested in at this time. It also supports normal thyroid function and acts as an antioxidant. And antioxidants, they offer protection against oxidative stress to cells that are caused by free radicals. And while free radicals are produced naturally in the body, exposure to everything from pollution to sunlight can accelerate their production and then lead to oxidative stress. So, selenium, an antioxidant, helps to maintain cell health by protecting cells from that oxidative stress.
Tom: So, who should take Acutia Brain Health?
Nikki: Our brain health supplement was formulated for anyone looking to enhance their day-to-day nutrition and support their cognitive health and brain function, both now and into the future.
Tom: As I understand it, Acutia Brain Health does also contain selenium. How does it differ from Acutia Selenium?
Nikki: Indeed, our brain health supplement does contain selenium, that ever-important antioxidant that we discussed. In addition, it's formulated with plant-based omega-3 DHA and vitamin C to support the process of neurotransmitters.
Now, neurotransmitters are often referred to as the body's chemical messengers. They're the molecules used by the nervous system to transmit messages between neurons or from neurons to muscle. These chemicals and their interactions are involved in countless functions of the nervous system, as well as controlling bodily functions.
Tom: What's the source of the selenium found in these supplements, and how do they differ from other selenium supplements?
Nikki: Acutia products utilize a food-grade version of Alltech’s Sel-Plex, which delivers a safe, high-quality, consistent source of selenium with each capsule. The form of our selenium is highly bioavailable, meaning that it's easily absorbed and utilized by your body. And when it comes to supplements, there are three characteristics that are absolutely critical. They need to be safe. Of course, they need to provide a consistent dose of the nutrients. And they should be easily absorbed by your body.
Tom: The digestive supplement is not yet on the market, as we mentioned earlier, but what can you tell us about it now?
Nikki: Well, we’re thrilled to announce we’ll be launching Acutia Digestive Health later this year. And hopefully, I’ll have the opportunity to join you again on the podcast to talk more about it then.
Tom: Okay. Well, let’s talk about the science behind these products. Alltech has, for many years, been widely known for its scientific innovation in animal health. How did the growth and development of the Acutia human health line benefit from that research?
Nikki: Well, (as) I mentioned earlier, Acutia supplements were developed with the support of research conducted by Alltech Life Sciences. With their support, we've applied more than 40 years of Alltech’s research experience, innovation and scientific expertise in the animal health space to human health. We're also very fortunate to have two of our senior Alltech research scientists on the Acutia team — chief scientific officer Dr. Ronan Power and research group director Dr. Alex Yiannikouris — to help guide the continued scientific innovation of our business.
Tom: Acutia’s approach to sustainability appears to have a lot to do with packaging and shipping, and it involves a refill system. Can you elaborate on that?
Nikki: Absolutely. This is truly one of my favorite things to talk about in regard to Acutia, because environmental sustainability is as much a part of our mission as our commitment to supporting human health.
So, each component of Acutia’s unique packaging and refill system has been designed with sustainability in mind — particularly, reducing the amount of plastic waste that’s typically associated with the supplement industry. So, upon your first order, we send an optional starter kit that includes a reusable glass jar and a travel container. Your supplements are then packaged in compostable pouches, and you can store your supplement in your glass jar or take it with you on the road in your travel container. You compost your pouch and eliminate a ton of unnecessary plastic waste. All of your following orders are then sent in their compostable pouch for refilling containers.
And all of the other packaging material — the shipping box for the starter kit, the shipping envelopes for the refill pouches and the informational card — they're recyclable, and they're either made from recycled post-consumer waste or made from material that’s been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. I'm sure you can tell that we're very proud of our packaging.
Tom: Well, tell us about Acutia’s partnership with Nori, the Seattle-based company that's created this marketplace for removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil, (which is known as) sequestering.
Nikki: Certainly. So, our commitment to sustainability, it doesn't stop at packaging. To deliver our supplement sustainably, we purchase carbon units from Nori, and those funds are distributed directly to farmers and producers, utilizing regenerative agricultural practices, which ties us back to our roots at Alltech. And by combining nutritional science with the sustainable delivery system, we're able to support the long-term health of the planet and the people who share it.
Tom: The supplement market is pretty huge. What distinguishes the Acutia line from all the rest?
Nikki: I'm glad you asked this. One of the biggest things is that our team is made up of scientists and dietitians. So, we are the ones that are formulating your supplement to optimize the quality, the absorption (and), of course, the safety and effectiveness, meaning that these products are truly great.
You know, the scientists are there from kind of the bench level, the nitty-gritty, and then the dietitians are there to talk about application with lifestyle — you know, how does that fit with your life? We're committed to the science of sustainable wellness — not only the long-term health and well-being of our customers but, also, doing our best to reduce our impact on the environment along the way.
Tom: How can people learn more (about) and, for that matter, purchase Acutia supplements?
Nikki: You can learn more and purchase Acutia at our website, acutia.com. You can find more information on our supplements, our team, the science behind our products and, of course, our commitment to sustainability.
Tom: And that’s Nikki Putnam Badding, managing director of Acutia, Alltech’s line of human health supplements. Thanks, Nikki.
Nikki: Thanks, Tom.
Tom: This has been Ag Future, presented by Alltech. Thank you for joining us. Be sure to subscribe to Ag Future wherever you listen to podcasts.