Episode Topic: In this episode of NutraPreneur, the spotlight is on the dynamic world of nutraceuticals, and our guide through this landscape is Lindsay Dahl, the Chief Impact Officer at Ritual. As the industry continues to evolve, Ritual stands out with its distinctive approach to product development, sustainability, and addressing the complex challenges posed by the ever-expanding supplements sector. Lindsay Dahl shares insights into how Ritual meticulously formulates its supplements, focusing on clinically studied ingredients and ensuring optimal dosages for efficacy. This commitment to scientific rigor sets Ritual apart in an industry where transparency and quality are often compromised.
Lessons You’ll Learn: Dahl shares valuable insights into the core principles guiding Ritual’s product innovation. Listeners will gain an understanding of the critical role that cutting-edge science plays in formulating nutraceuticals, emphasizing the significance of clinically studied ingredients and proper dosages for optimal efficacy. Additionally, the episode highlights the importance of actively engaging with customers to gather feedback, driving continuous improvement in product offerings.
About Our Guest: As Chief Impact Officer at Ritual, Lindsay Dahl is a trailblazer in environmental health and sustainability. With nearly two decades of experience, Dahl has played a pivotal role in shaping Ritual’s commitment to transparency, safety, and science-backed innovation. Her advocacy work has contributed to the passage of over 20 laws enhancing public health.
Topics Covered: The conversation spans a wide array of topics within the nutraceutical industry. Ritual’s journey into specialized supplements like Synbiotic and Ha’asara is discussed, revealing the company’s commitment to scientific rigor and efficacy. Dahl sheds light on the customer-centric approach, detailing how Ritual actively incorporates customer insights into its product development. Sustainability initiatives take center stage, with Ritual’s groundbreaking efforts in sharing carbon footprints and achieving Clean Label Project certification. The episode also delves into Dahl’s advocacy work, emphasizing the need for policy changes to enhance safety and efficacy standards in the industry.
Our Guest: Lindsay Dahl- Sustainability Trailblazer in The Nutraceutical Industry
Lindsay Dahl, the esteemed Chief Impact Officer at Ritual, brings a wealth of experience and passion to the intersection of environmental health and nutraceutical innovation. With a career spanning nearly two decades, Lindsay’s journey began in traditional environmental activism, focusing on clean air and water. However, a pivotal moment in her early career illuminated the link between toxic chemicals in consumer products and their impact on both home environments and the broader ecosystem. This revelation propelled Lindsay towards a holistic approach, where removing toxic chemicals from daily products became a powerful means to influence larger environmental issues.
As a renowned activist, writer, and sustainability pioneer, Lindsay’s impactful work extends beyond Ritual’s confines. She has played a crucial role in shaping policies that enhance public health, contributing to the passage of over 20 laws. Lindsay’s commitment to transparency and safety in consumer products has become a hallmark of her advocacy efforts, influencing not only Ritual’s operations but also the broader nutraceutical industry. Her role as Chief Impact Officer at Ritual is a testament to her dedication to pushing the industry towards higher standards of quality, efficacy, and sustainability.
Lindsay’s expertise is not confined to her corporate role; she actively engages in discussions around the nutraceutical industry, serving as a beacon for aspiring entrepreneurs and activists. Her insights, drawn from extensive experience in environmental health, emphasize the importance of asking critical questions, fostering transparency, and advocating for positive change within the industry. Lindsay Dahl stands as a true trailblazer, shaping the narrative of environmental health in the nutraceutical landscape.
Lindsay Dahl: The last time there was a major federal law passed overseeing the supplements industry was in the 1990s. At the time, there were about 4000 supplements on the market. And today, fast forward 30 years, there’s over 85,000 products on the market. So the category has absolutely exploded. It’s because people care about their health. And yet in some cases, the quality or the efficacy behind those products, and certainly the sustainability characteristics haven’t always scaled with the scope of the industry.
Bethany Jolley: Welcome to Nutra-Preneur, the Neutral Industry podcast. I’m your host, food scientist, and nutraceuticals consultant, Bethany Jolley. Each episode will be exploring what it takes to thrive in the nutraceutical industry. From conversations with successful nutraceutical entrepreneurs to venture capitalists to tech executives whose innovations are reshaping the nutraceutical industry. We explore the innovations and trends that are shaping the next generation of nutraceutical businesses. Welcome to another episode of Nutra-Preneur. Your go-to podcast for the latest insights in the nutraceutical industry. I’m Bethany, your host, and today we’re honored to have Lindsay Dahl, the Chief Impact officer at Ritual. Lindsay is an acclaimed activist, writer, and pioneer in environmental health and sustainability. She’s played a pivotal role in pushing for transparency and safety in consumer products, impacting both health and environmental policies. Welcome, Lindsay. It’s so great to have you today.
Lindsay Dahl: I’m so glad to be here. Thanks for having me.
Bethany Jolley: Yeah. So first, I think it’d be great if you could share with us the story behind your venture into environmental health and what led you to join Ritual as their chief impact officer.
Lindsay Dahl: Sure. I’ve been a part of the Ritual team for almost two years now, but I’ve been working in the environmental health consumer safety space for nearly 20. And so the kind of winding road that led me to Ritual, eventually I started working on kind of traditional environmental issues, protecting clean air, clean water, etc. And then I learned early in my career about toxic chemicals in consumer products and the connection between our home environments and the environment out there suddenly was like this light bulb moment for me. So if you work to remove toxic chemicals from the products we bring into our homes, you can also have a tremendous impact on the things that I had cared about deeply, like clean air and clean water where those toxic chemicals are made. So in the communities all across the United States. So it was kind of an exciting opportunity for me to realize that not everyone cares about the environment, and that’s okay. But certainly, everyone cares about their health and thinking of our environment and our health as kind of two symbiotic things that we have to kind of care about at the same time. is ultimately what led me here. And Ritual specifically, before I joined the business, I had used the prenatal vitamin for both of my pregnancies. And so I already knew that the standards of science and efficacy and traceability were very high for the business. And I was attracted to that because, like many people and like many people at Ritual, I had a healthy level of skepticism over the supplements industry. And so I typically like being a part of businesses and organizations that are trying to disrupt the status quo and ask hard questions to try to do things a little bit better.
Bethany Jolley: Yeah, absolutely. And those are some great points. I think the supplement industry has just grown so rapidly, and there are so many different products and brands out there, and it can be hard to know which products are actually safe and trustworthy.
Lindsay Dahl: Yep. That’s absolutely right. So the last time there was a major federal law passed overseeing the supplements industry was in the 1990s. At the time, there were about 4000 supplements on the market. And today, fast forward 30 years there’s over 85,000 products on the market. And so the category has absolutely exploded. It’s because people care about their health. And yet in some cases, the quality or the efficacy behind those products, and certainly the sustainability characteristics haven’t always scaled with the scope of the industry.
Bethany Jolley: Yeah. And your work has significantly impact public health and consumer safety. And so how have these experiences shaped your approach at Ritual, particularly in the product development phase and sustainability?
Lindsay Dahl: I think over the years I’ve learned and the first thing I think I’ve kind of brought to the Ritual team, which is certainly a mindset that they already had, but is using cutting-edge science to ask different questions. And so what I mean by that is kind of thinking beyond the traditional safety attributes. So there are things like phthalates that are used in tubing of manufacturing equipment or PFAs are nicknamed forever. Chemicals are kind of global pollutants. There’s all these classes of chemicals that can end up in products and finished goods without a company intentionally adding them to their products. And the traditional business mindset is to not think about contaminants or not think about a lot of these kind of more cutting-edge issues. And that kind of forward-thinking approach is certainly woven into the product development process at Ritual and the same holds true for sustainability or sustainable packaging. Sometimes with the consumer thinks it’s sustainable, say, when it comes to packaging, isn’t always the case. And so how do you use science and scientific tools like lifecycle assessments to actually answer the question, what’s more sustainable? And then make the right choices of business and then educate the consumer as to why you made that choice. Again, typically some people will just kind of jump into whatever the consumer trend is, but we always lead with the science. And I think the second way I’ll answer your question is one of the other things I think that I’ve brought and learned over the years is that making products is incredibly transformational to change and push the market, but you have to also simultaneously advocate for policies to help level the playing field across that industry. And so I have seen the largest transformation happen when both companies are doing the right thing and kind of pushing the envelope, and simultaneously you pass legislation to either remove toxic chemicals or make products a little bit safer to kind of hold those laggards accountable because it’s not just about providing safer or more sustainable products to a premium market. We really need to make sure that we’re democratizing across product price points, which is where policy comes to play.
Bethany Jolley: Yeah, absolutely. And I think Ritual really stands out for its commitment to transparency. So can you talk with us about some of the challenges and triumphs of maintaining this standard of traceability in your products?
Lindsay Dahl: Sure. So since the day that Ritual launched, we publicly share the final place of manufacturing and the supplier name for all of our active and other ingredients. And the reason that’s interesting is because a lot of people would be like, “Well, why are you telling your competitors who your suppliers are?” And our CEO’s philosophy has always been, “If we spent all this time scouring the globe to find the highest quality ingredients, why wouldn’t we want other people to also use and invest in those raw materials?” I love that mindset. but it does come with a lot of trade-offs. So it’s really challenging if you think about it’s untraditional in a lot of companies don’t want their name or where they’re manufacturing. They don’t want that location on our website. And so sometimes it’s prevented us from working with suppliers that we thought were really great. In other instances, we know that traceability means a lot of different things to different people. So we’re always on a quest to try to get as much traceability down to the source, which can mean a lot of different things, whether it’s a natural or synthetic ingredient. And following the full supply chain of ingredients is really complicated. So I think that’s an ongoing challenge. That’s not unique to Ritual, but certainly is what we see as the future. And the more companies across these different industries, whether it’s beauty or fashion or supplements that are trying to get further and further down their supply chain, the more companies that are asking these hard questions, the more that type of transparency will be more welcomed, rather than creating kind of a fearful situation with suppliers.
Bethany Jolley: Yeah. And I think that’s great. I mean, I don’t see very many companies that are sharing that information. And so I think that also gives consumers some peace of mind because they can see where you’re sourcing these things, that you’re using appropriate manufacturers and things like that.
Lindsay Dahl: Yeah, absolutely. It definitely builds trust, which is important because like I mentioned earlier the reason Ritual exists is because we have a healthy skepticism towards the supplement industry. We say that with love because we’re in it obviously. it doesn’t mean we’re perfect either, but it shows people that we care enough and we’re confident enough in our suppliers to be able to share them publicly.
Bethany Jolley: Yeah. And at Ritual, you focused on creating specialized supplements like the Synbiotic Plus and the Highest Sierra, I believe, is what it’s called. so what drives the innovation behind these unique products?
Lindsay Dahl: That’s right. So we started with our like core multivitamin, prenatal-type products. And now we’ve gone into an enhancer category. So Synbiotic is a pre-pro and postbiotic. so the reason that we have kind of developed and what has led that innovation is really what is the science say is the best for these different types of products. So taking Synbiotic for example, we wanted to use clinically backed and clinically studied ingredients because we think proof through human clinical trials is critical. We also wanted to make sure we were using the same doses that were used in those clinical trials. So oftentimes companies can use an ingredient that is clinically studied that kind of pixie dust in their formula, and then they claim clinically studied to the consumer. We wanted to make sure that there was truly the efficacy that we saw in those clinicals reflected in our formula. And then we also wanted to make sure that the delivery format was the most advantageous to the consumer. So we have technology in our capsules to make sure that the Synbiotic blend is actually released at the proper time of digestion. Same holds true for High Sierra, which is our skin health supplement. And again, we never thought we would get into the kind of beauty ingestibles category because it historically has been so thin on science. we wanted to go into a gummy format, which is really popular within that space. But then we learned a lot. Again, our science and innovation team led that journey to help us understand that in order to get the efficacy we wanted, we actually couldn’t use a gummy format. And actually, again, using ingredients that had clinical studies, the same level and doses that were in those clinicals were in our formulas. A lot of people kind of started with the buzzy ingredients like collagen, etc., and we really started with, what’s the problem we’re trying to solve, which is skin hydration and reducing fine lines and wrinkles. And what’s the most science-forward way we can do that? So that’s our general philosophy. And then on top of all of those considerations, we layer on this commitment to having traceable sourcing for all of our products.
Bethany Jolley: Yeah, that’s great. And you bring up some great points too about all the research that goes into it to make sure that you are putting in the right amounts And making sure that it’s the correct format and all of those things because I know there are some brands out there, like you said, that will make claims. But then when you dive into the product, you see there’s maybe just a milligram of something. And so it makes you question like, is this claim supported?
Lindsay Dahl: Yeah. We launched a sleep product this year that has yet a different format. And we have a dosing PhD expert on staff that really looks at and has helped us design this delayed-release product that has three different pills, essentially in one capsule to help make sure that the melatonin is being released properly throughout your sleep, that you don’t wake up groggy. And again, like the innovation behind even how things are being absorbed by your body based on the considerations of what it’s trying to do, I think is pretty special.
Bethany Jolley: This episode is brought to you by neutrapayments.com. If your business needs credit card processing that fully integrates with most major neutral software platforms, offers the lowest industry prices, and has built-in features like recurring billing, zero-dollar trials, and chargeback prevention. Then visit us at neutrapayments.com for a free online quote. In this nutraceutical industry, I think customer feedback is often really crucial. And so how does Ritual incorporate customer insights into its product development and continuous improvement projects?
Lindsay Dahl: We’re in a consistent feedback loop with our customers. We have primarily a subscription business where. Also available at Whole Foods, Amazon, and Target. But primarily people are subscribers. And so we talk to our subscribers a lot. And we get a ton of feedback both around the kind of sensory improvements of our products or future innovation that they’d like to see. Actually, having a probiotic was one of the most requested products from our consumer base. And so it also helped tip the scales for us to create Synbiotic as a product. It now is one of our most successful product launches to date. And yeah, we’re always hearing and listening to our customers. And some of that also falls in my world around questions around packaging. So people know our bottles are 100% post-consumer recycled PET plastic for our multivitamin bottles. And some people will ask, “Hey, are you going to have a Takeback program?” And my response is, “We have a Takeback program, but it shouldn’t be for the bottle you’re asking about because that’s actually curbside recyclable.” But for these other products, “Here’s the pet collective and how you can send those in.” So just trying to navigate and to my earlier point some of the feedback from customers around different types of questions around sustainability. when we take the time to give them kind of a longer explanation back, they’re always incredibly appreciative because it’s often a time for educating people about kind of our rationale and thinking behind these complicated topics.
Bethany Jolley: Yes, absolutely. And I think, it’s great that you’re able to help educate your customers because I think a lot of people don’t understand all of the ins and outs of sustainability and the various types of packaging.
Lindsay Dahl: Yeah. That’s true. We get a lot of requests for refillable packaging, which is something we’re working on. But again, the reason it takes a while to get it right is because we don’t want to just put something into a sachet if the stability or shelf life is going to be compromised because the last thing someone wants to do is pay a premium for something like our multivitamins or prenatal, and then when by the time you open it because it’s not in the original packaging, somehow have that formula be compromised. So making sure we’re we’re not compromising the efficacy while still having a superior sustainability experience is something that we’re always trying to channel through the daily decisions that we make.
Bethany Jolley: Yes. And your advocacy has led to the passage of over 20 laws enhancing public health. So how do you see this experience influencing the nutraceutical industry, particularly in areas of policy and regulation?
Lindsay Dahl: Yeah, policies has always been something that I’m passionate about because I do feel like it’s an opportunity, as I mentioned, to not only level the playing field but to create large systemic change that one single brand or organization can always create themselves. And so Ritual has been active for years on a bunch of different advocacy topics, everything from advocating for paid family leave at the federal level things that are really near and dear to our heart, both as a woman and a mom-led company. And obviously with a prenatal audience as part of our consumer base, really important to us. We also rolled out our traceable wellness roadmap, which is basically five different areas of the supplement industry that we think there’s opportunities for Congress to kind of revisit. I think they can be distilled into the two categories of safety and efficacy. So the first of which is we’re asking that Congress establish health-protective heavy metal limits across supplements and protein powders, which currently do not exist. And then second, we think there needs to be more clarity for how brands use the terms clinically studied. As we had talked about before, this concept of pixie dusting, or kind of using the terms clinically studied to help customers think that this product has been studied, but not being nuanced about the ingredients or whole final formula, all those kind of considerations. We think that there can be more guardrails to help make sure that consumers can trust our industry more.
Bethany Jolley: Yeah, absolutely. And Ritual has made a significant mark since its inception and back in 2015. So what are some of the upcoming projects and innovations that you’re particularly excited about?
Lindsay Dahl: So we’ve taken a strong stand on climate change and specifically taking accountability for the carbon that is associated with bringing our products to market. we use the best science to help guide our nutrition and our formulas. And so why wouldn’t we use the best available science to help guide our sustainability program and especially things like climate? So one of the things that we’re most excited about that we’re going to continue to do, is we’re the first company in the category to publicly share the carbon footprint for all of our products. That number of how much carbon is associated with each multivitamin bottle. That number doesn’t mean a lot to people, but what it does show is that we’re not just talking about climate change. We’re actually trying to understand our impact and then reduce our carbon impact over time. And so again, it’s in the spirit of building trust with consumers. And then the second thing is we just became Clean Label Project certified for all of our products. So the clean label project independently tests for over 200 different contaminants, everything from different pesticides to heavy metals, microbes, and plasticizer chemicals like phthalates. And for five of our products, we receive their purity award. So our plant-based protein powder, which is traditionally a product category that does have a lot of heavy metal issues or contamination for pesticides, our prenatal and postnatal, those are all examples of some of our products that have received kind of their highest caliber purity award as well which was really exciting.
Bethany Jolley: Yeah. And I think the Clean Label Project is becoming more recognized in the industry as well. I know even in some discussions I’ve had with retailers, they’re starting to look for that or maybe even require that in the future, because there are just so many potential contaminants that can be in supplements.
Lindsay Dahl: Yeah, absolutely. it’s not an entirely new certification, but I do think it’s starting to take off as an important new kind of clean or safer attribute for consumers to see when they’re looking on shelf.
Bethany Jolley: Absolutely. And for any aspiring entrepreneurs and activists that are out there in the nutraceutical space, what advice would you offer based on your extensive experience in environmental health and in business?
Lindsay Dahl: I think the best advice I have is that it doesn’t matter what position you’re in with a company, within a company or organization, you can be an advocate for doing the right thing, doing right by people’s health workers within the supply chain, making sure that there’s fair wages and compensation. if you’re on the operations team, you can play a really critical role in trying to press suppliers to get more traceability of those ingredients. The reason that’s important is not just for quality, but for well-known human rights issues, which are really kind of varied across a lot of different industries. Or if you’re on a marketing team, of course, you can help authentically and yet accurately tell the story to the consumer without overstating claims. Everyone has a role to play in kind of leveling up the industry overall. And I think sometimes the term activist has a bad name or connotation to it. I don’t think so. But obviously, I am an activist, self-proclaimed activist. So, like, I just think it’s okay to, like, be a little bit of a squeaky wheel, even if that’s within the safety of a team meeting or something. It’s okay to agitate and press questions and ask questions because that’s how we kind of collectively move forward. You have to know when to take a win and when to kind of step back on a particular topic. But in general, asking smart questions and kind of building relationships within your business is one of the most kind of tried and true tactics for making progress on all these important topics.
Bethany Jolley: Definitely, everyone’s role is important and everyone can can serve a purpose in order to achieve the goals.
Lindsay Dahl: Yeah, absolutely.
Bethany Jolley: Well, that brings us to the end of an of an inspiring conversation with Lindsay Doll, a true trailblazer in environmental health and nutraceutical innovation. Thank you once again, Lindsay, for sharing your invaluable insights and experiences with us. To our listeners. To delve deeper into Ritual’s groundbreaking work, visit the links provided. Don’t forget to subscribe and share your thoughts on today’s episode. Join us next time on Nutra Preneur for more explorations into the dynamic world of nutraceuticals. Stay informed and be part of the change and the evolving industry. Join us next time on Nutra-Preneur for more explorations into the dynamic world of nutraceuticals. Stay informed and be part of the change in the evolving industry.