Fort Collins, Colorado
Industry: Bioscience & Medical
Products: Contract manufacturing for liposome-based vitamins and supplements
Founder and CEO Emek Blair is offering an innovative manufacturing method to vitamin and supplement brands.
Blair moved to Colorado from California in 2006 to work for a Fortune 500 company before indulging an entrepreneurial streak. He licensed the intellectual property behind Valimenta's flagship vitamin-making process to other companies for about five years, then opted to go into manufacturing himself. "I decided to go on my own and vertically integrate," he says. "It's more lucrative and you get to decide on your own direction."
Valimenta's proprietary liposomal manufacturing process is a trade secret, but its end products are gels, sprays, and liquids with vitamins and supplements that are encased in lipids, or fats, and have a two-year shelf life.
"We use a more natural process," says Blair, likening the molecular structure to milk. "Let's say you take a gram of Vitamin C. You only absorb about 200 milligrams and everything else gets rejected. You're wasting energy."
And tablets and capsules don't protect vitamins from the rigors of digestion. "A lot of nutrients are destroyed by your stomach," he adds. "You eat them and your stomach just vaporizes them."
Valimenta-made products "package vitamins into a bubble that the body can recognize and absorb at a high rate. We're mimicking how the body absorbs nutrients." These liposomal particles are as small as 50 nanometers across, and delivered in a gluten-, alcohol-, soy-free liquid made from sunflower oil and other ingredients.
Valimenta offers turnkey manufacturing services, including packaging and quality control. Clients run the gamut from existing vitamin brands to mom-and-pop marketing businesses.
Blair first worked with lipid-coating processes as a student at University of California, Irvine. Innovation came by way of a happy accident. "Under certain conditions, I was able to dissolve materials in a solution, and that's what I was trying to avoid," he says.
Then Blair flipped the discovery on its head and developed a manufacturing process. "The process is novel, but it's not what I'd call rocket science," he says. "What's cool about it is it scales. It's really affordable to make it in large volumes."
To that end, Valimenta is moving into a newly built, 13,000-square-foot facility in February 2018 after operating out of a 7,500-square-foot space since 2015. "We'll be able to produce 10X what we produce now."
Forecasting 60 percent growth for 2018, Blair is planning to boost sales and production with new hires to fill out the new capacity.
But it ultimately comes down to performance, he adds, and conclusive data is the best sales pitch for Valimenta's manufacturing technology. "We invest a lot of time, energy, and resources doing clinical studies," says Blair. A 2012 study by Colorado State University researchers showed significantly higher absorption rates for liposomal Vitamin C over traditional vitamins.
Challenges: Career development for employees. "Keeping people interested and keeping people moving forward is always a challenge," says Blair.
Opportunities: New products and favorable demographics. "We've already developed a couple of new generations of our technologies," says Blair.
Products "that support brain function" are hot, as are supplements with turmeric and mushrooms.
He adds, "What is driving growth in a lot of sectors in a lot of health categories is the Baby Boomers. As they age, they are looking for a better solution. Our delivery system is a better solution."
Needs: "We're always looking for good partners to put products out there with and continue to do research with," says Blair. "That's what we're always looking for."