Vplenish seems like a can’t-miss product: powdered vitamins that come in tabletop sweetener-sized packets and are mixed directly into hot or cold drinks. There are no calories, sugar or caffeine, the product is colorless and tasteless and it costs only a penny. It debuted at the National Restaurant Show, but most show round-ups didn’t give it so much as a mention. Are we the only ones who see its huge potential as the nutritional scrutiny of restaurant offerings intensifies?
Each Vplenish packet delivers 100 percent of the RDA of water-soluble B vitamins and vitamin C. Minerals and fat-soluble vitamins—i.e., all the other components of a typical multi\vitamin supplement—were intentionally left out due to possible overdose concerns.
Inventor/founder Steven Sponder tailored Vplenish to meet the needs of a customer base that either doesn’t like to swallow traditional vitamin pills or has forgotten to take their usual one on any given day and is looking for an easy way to catch up on their supplements while eating out.
It didn’t take rocket science to come up with this solution. Sponder’s lone technical challenge was to neutralize the taste of the raw vitamins, which was easily accomplished by coating each vitamin granule with an all-natural vegetable substance.
We’re not advocates for this company or its products. But we do like the approach. We see three strong factors that work in Vplenish’s favor.
One is the cost. Sponder told the Palm Beach Post he is selling it at a penny a pack, and expects to make a solid profit at that price point. “We’ll be profitable from day one,” he says. “When we’re buying the product by the metric ton, our costs go down by a factor of 20.” That’s cheap enough so that restaurants could, if they desire, not charge for it. “Vitamins should be a giveaway, not a luxury item,” he says.
The second is that Sponder packaged Vplenish in single-serve paper packets the same shape and size as the common sweeteners used in foodservice. Which is to say, many within his target audience—restaurant owners—already have dedicated caddies on their tables to hold something exactly this size.
The third is that some foodservice consumers are already comfortable with outsourcing their vitamin needs to foodservice providers. Buy a smoothie from Jamba Juice and you get to add in one free nutritional “boost.” That boost might be a multivitamin. With 22 essential vitamins and minerals, the Jamba Juice offering is much more comprehensive than the Vplenish version. Other “boosts” consist of probiotic cultures, flax and fiber, calcium, whey protein and more. Anything beyond the first boost costs extra at Jamba Juice.
We don’t think restaurants would have much luck if they tried to charge for Vplenish. But we can see many people using it regularly when a restaurant gives it away. The lone problem we can foresee would be people stealing extra packets, especially during the cold and flu season—although, at a penny apiece, this might also qualify as good marketing.
It’s hard to see a drawback here for most operators. In fact, you’d think they’d be clamoring to get their hands on it before their competitors do. Vplenish gives restaurants the chance to go on the offensive on nutritional issues for a change, instead of playing defense as they did about trans fats, menu labeling, the salt content of their offerings and complaints about too-generous portion sizes. If you’re looking to put a nutritional halo around your operation, or if you have a lot of health-conscious customers, we say you should ask Vplenish to send you some samples. What other product can help your business out for a penny apiece?