Conor Kerley, a doctor of nutrition, founded Phytaphix last year

By Murielle Gonzalez

Portrait photo of Conor Kerley
Dr Conor Kerley, founder of Phytaphix

Irish company Phytaphix, the supplements business that Dr Conor Kerley founded last year, hit the market last month with an initial batch of 150 units of Immune Phix, a plant-based immune support powder, and the supplement sold out in less than a week. Kerley, a solopreneur, told NutritionInvestor that sales were made following leads on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube – the company’s social media channels.

Today, the second batch of 1,000 units is selling fast. “Sales are coming from Ireland, Scotland and England, as well as Romania,” says Kerley. “I’m looking to expand sales and distribution throughout Europe and further afield in due course.”

Phytaphix is tapping into a category that is forecast to grow at an annual rate of 5.8% in the coming years, hitting $22.5 billion globally by 2027, according to data from Innova Consumer Survey 2020.

Immune health for a Covid-19 world

Kerley started developing Immune Phix in March – making a commercial pivot in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Photo as seen on the Facebook page of Phytaphix

“I had navigated the regulatory pathway for two products for blood pressure and blood sugar when the Covid-19 pandemic came to Ireland, which cancelled the plans to launch clinical trials,” says Kerley, noting that instead of panic about the future of the business, he took a strategic decision – to focus on immune health.

Kerley, a doctor of nutrition, put together the formula for Immune Phix in a couple of months – it’s built on his nutrition expertise and a personal story. “I suffer from multiple sclerosis and allergic asthma, two conditions of the immune system,” he explains. “With Immune Phix, I wanted to produce something that was novel and innovative,” he says.

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Kerley seized the opportunity. He knew immune health would be at the centre of an emerging consumer trend, which is likely to persist, due to rising concerns about immune health brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Today’s consumers view immunity as a long-term state, achievable through preventative and proactive strategies,” says Kerley, noting immunity involves thinking about health holistically. “Stress, anxiety, health sleep pattern disruptions, gut health, and inflammation are conditions linked to immunity, and currently managed by this holistic approach.”

Plant-based food sources for immune health

Immune Phix is manufactured and packaged in Ireland. The formula comprises natural, plant-based vitamin C from whole fruit powders, including strawberry and elderberry; vitamin D3 from marine algae; magnesium from the waters off the Irish coast; vitamin B12 from Irish mushrooms, antioxidant minerals selenium and zinc from nuts; and flavonoids from whole, Japanese organic Matcha green tea. These, Kerley says, are prime immune support ingredients.

The product comes in an elderberry flavoured powder and has received EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) approval for three health claims – contribution to the normal function of immune health, the protection of cells from oxidative stress, and the reduction of tiredness and fatigue.

The nutritional profile of Immune Phix speaks for itself. A single dose of five grams, roughly a teaspoon, delivers:

  • 255 mg of vitamin C, the same amount as 13 fresh tangerines
  • 300 mcg of vitamin D3​, the same amount as five glasses of milk
  • 2.5 mcg of vitamin B12, the same amount as 250 g of sirloin beef
  • 8 mg of zinc, the same amount as 75 Brazil nuts
  • 116 mg of magnesium, the same amount as 30 prunes
  • 100 mcg of selenium, the same amount as 2,500 sunflower seeds
  • the same antioxidant score (ORAC) as five large carrots
  • the same amount of ECG flavonoids as in 15,000 bananas

And there’s more. Immune Phix is gluten-free, is produced with clean label ingredients, and is packaged in 100% recyclable materials.

Kerley is working at full throttle on the delivery of domestic and international orders, as well as putting the finishing touches on the website, including its webshop.

NutritionInvestor understands that Kerley is looking for funding opportunities and that he is in talks with a few investors.

“The company has been running with my resources only, so I’m also interested in finding an investor to partner with, be it an angel investor or a VC,” says Kerley. “But it’s a hectic time now with the orders; I think it’s good to focus on one thing at a time,” Kerley concludes.

Kerley is also in talks with a pharmacy chain in Ireland and the UK.

Date Published: 3 November 2020

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