What motivated you to get involved with liposomal formulations?
I actually came across the topic of liposomes by chance. I had been interested in natural active ingredients and was fascinated by their great potential as dietary supplements. However, everything I read about conventional food supplements suggested that the full potential of vitamins and plant substances in them were not achieved.
For me, the grounding principle was therefore, easy to find. What if all the promising vital substances, that were so far effective in vitro alone, could make it into the blood stream? If they could avoid elimination by our digestive system, could they have the same effect in vivo? One day, I came across a technique that has been used for a long time in the medical and cosmetic sectors to improve the transport of active ingredients- liposomal technology. I had never heard of liposomal formulations until then. Being quite curious, I started to read deeper into the subject. Careful research revealed that liposomes could serve as a transport mechanism for substances to work effectively and to their full potential in our bodies. The scientific evidence supporting the safety and efficacy of liposomes further convinced me that they would create a revolution in the Food Supplement Industry.
This continues to be the vision of PlantaCorp today – to promote the use of advanced liposomal food supplements.
I have always been interested in fitness and health and yet, I was not convinced that the nutritional supplements on the market were providing me with any real benefit. Upon meeting Jan and hearing about liposomal food supplements, I was convinced that THIS was the solution that I and many others like me were looking for.
I have been consuming our products and am convinced of their benefits. Our R&D team’s bioavailability studies provide concrete evidence of my beliefs- Our liposomal encapsulation technology could unleash the full potential of several nutrients.
The founding story
Why did you decide to start your own manufacturing process?
Almost a decade ago, the market for food supplements in Germany was extremely fragmented. Interesting new developments were not easily introduced into the market. Further, the products on the market were too expensive and importing them was an additional forbidding cost. There was, thus, much more music in the idea of developing my own process with the ingredients and products that I was personally interested in.
What followed was like a domino effect. In one night I started researching the production of liposomal formulations. The processes outlined seemed highly complicated. The next day I happened to be on the phone with two friends – a pharmacist and a chemist. Both were very open to the project and also had the desire and time to join in. I then threw myself into the question of how liposomal formulations could be produced. Within two days we made the decision to follow through with it. However, due in part to no financial backing, PlantaCorp remained in the shadows for a few more years.
When I met Jan, I was running a successful grain export company. However, when he told me about this revolutionary dietary supplement technology that he was working on, I knew that I had to partner with him and venture into this new business. That’s how we got PlantaCorp on its feet and running in 2015.
What is the innovation in the PlantaCorp production process?
In order to manufacture liposomes and produce high-quality liposomal formulations, profound know-how and highly specialised technologies are required. For one whole year, my liposomal mentors and I hunkered down in the laboratory of a friend. We were thus able to create our now, filed-for-patent liposome manufacturing technology, LipoSone®. Nobody could have known at the beginning that we were the optimal team for such a project.
The ingredients for the production of liposomal formulations are known, as is the end result. The big secret is the step in between. Our tool of choice is ultrasound, which is used to vibrate the phospholipids. A central question in the development of the production process was therefore, how the ultrasound waves could be controlled. As a computer scientist, it was up to me to find the best possible solution. The control of the ultrasonic waves is now a key component of our innovative technology.
Our growth potential
How has your growth encouraged you to look further into the future?
Beginning as a 1-man army, we have now grown into a 60-plus strong workforce. We began receiving enquiries from all over the world and so it was imperative for us to recruit multi-lingual and multi-cultural employees who enrich our team. Through them, we continue expanding our global reach.
Our rapid growth (130% in 2020 vs 2019) has also seen us re-organize our company structure several times over the past 5 years. We have since, founded a B2C distribution partner, PMC Labs, and a holding company, MindSet Invest GmbH. We have also had to increase our production capacity to accommodate the large number of orders we receive. Within a few years, our sister brand, ActiNovo, has become one of the most popular liposomal food supplement brands in Europe. We have expanded our reach to almost every European country, China and the rest of the globe.
For me, this is confirmation that our no-fuss products have been successful from the very beginning. Our honest, scientific approach has convinced many a sceptic. This, I believe, has set us on an unshakeable growth path.
The unique combination of innovation and interesting, natural active ingredients gives liposomal formulations the ability to make possible what we have all been hoping for from food supplements: that they really work. We thus have the chance to conquer this untapped market.
Having been a pioneer in this field, and with the help of our dedicated team, we have already seen a sharp growth in the company’s market presence. Our concrete vision and plans for the next few years continues to point us in the direction of growth.
What are your goals for the near future?
The next big milestone is the complete setup and functioning of a new production facility in Eidelstedt. Our new facility was inaugurated in December 2020 and we hope to make the full move by the end of 2021. This facility will be capable of producing up to 2 000 L per work shift!
We also have ambitious goals in sales and marketing. Last year we entered the Chinese market. This year, we plan to expand into Russia, Korea and Japan.
Our company’s values
What do you place particular emphasis on in your corporate management?
Every employee is personally selected and hired by us – from the COO to the warehouse worker. We attach great importance to diversity. The fact that our employees enjoy working for us is certainly also due to our distinctive feedback culture, in which constructive criticism plays a major role. We are always concerned with the question “How can we do it better?”.
Another reason certainly is that employees from all departments can participate in the development of the company. For example, we have a weekly meeting with the team leaders from every department where they present their team’s progress and future goals. They also air out any grievances or ideas at these meetings. Everyone in the meeting can then help them solve their issues or offer suggestions on how to develop their ideas. The team leaders than share this information with their team members, who give their feedback to be discussed in the next meeting. Every single employee is thus, given their say in the company’s operations.
We are always open to new ideas. “Think along” is part of our company philosophy. Thus, every single employee can enrich the company with ideas. Our experience is that the best ideas come about through cooperation between the departments, i.e. when research, production, logistics, sales and fulfilment create products and processes in an interdisciplinary way. Thus, although every team may have their own office, their doors are always open to foster discussions with other teams.
Our hierarchies are also extremely flat. Since we work in international teams, we are on a first-name basis. This creates a very open working environment.
How important is quality to you under the “Made in Germany” label?
Very important. We didn’t decide on ‘Made in Germany’ for marketing reasons. Since importing goods for the food supplement market was prohibitive, one of my motives was to try to source locally as much as possible. Also, since there are high demands placed on product quality and reliability in Germany, the decision to source and produce in Germany was implicit for us. That is why we also chose the most complex and costly ISO 22000 certification even though the associated rules and regulations are a special challenge for a young company like ours.
How have you maintained the quality associated with an ISO 22000 and GMP certification?
We owe the fact that we were able to meet these standards primarily due to our pragmatic and solution-oriented thinking and acting. According to quality management, for example, all the parcels we receive must be recorded. It turned out that the delivery staff did not comply with the hygiene regulations of the company and that the delivery had to be documented with extensive forms. I always look for simple, effective solutions and so I developed an IT programme to document the entire process.
Innovation is also a constant process of optimization. We have learned an incredible amount in the past 5 years. Although our manufacturing process has remained essentially the same, other aspects of our products like improving their shelf-life has had to be optimized. It was fortunate that we sold rather small batches in the early days, so that corrections were not so painful. Now, we have our in-house R&D and quality management teams that continue looking into ways to improving and customizing our products for our customers.
The growth potential for our customers
How do you envision the co-development of existing and future customers?
I see us and our customers as being in a win-win situation. The companies that have their liposomal food supplement line developed by us can be assured of the quality and efficacy of their products. In turn, this gives them the confidence to promote their products to benefit the end-customers’ health. With the liposomal supplement market still being relatively young, they are one of the pioneers in this new market area. This offers them a huge market benefit. In turn, we as the manufacturers also benefit because our product becomes better known. Together, this opens up opportunities for unparalleled growth for all parties involved.