'It's a Reinvented Multivitamin.' Venice-Based GEM Takes on the Supplement Market

Francesca Billington

Francesca Billington is a freelance reporter. Prior to that, she was a general assignment reporter for dot.LA and has also reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.

GEM vitamins

Investors are betting consumers will finally take their vitamins.

At $65 a month, Venice-based GEM sells melatonin-free daily sleep supplements made with ingredients like magnesium, rosemary, pumpkin seeds and valerian root.

It's neither a pill nor gummy vitamin but, as founder and CEO Sara Cullen calls it, real food.

"I would think of a protein bar you might know," Cullen said. "It has a nice dark chocolate profile. Nice seeds so it's got a beautiful texture and chewy in that kind of way."

The early-stage consumer fund that backed beauty vitamin brand HUM and the "hydration multiplier" Liquid IV is now behind a $10.5 million seed round for Cullen's L.A. startup selling supplements that will "improve whole body health at a cellular level."

Founded in 2018, GEM is tackling the $140.3-billion supplement market with its line of daily "whole food bites" with names like Sleep, Immunity and Daily Essentials.

"It's a reinvented multivitamin," the CEO said.

A few years ago, after learning she was deficient in a long list of nutrients, Cullen stood in the vitamin aisle of a store and studied almost every bottle on the shelf.

"They were filled with a lot of isolated vitamins, filled with synthetic and artificial fillers, sugary binders," she said. "It didn't intuitively seem right. Like why am I eating a candy for my health?"

Her solution was a California-made supplement that looks more like a small, organic brownie than a vitamin. And she defends the price by claiming that it would cost consumers far more to source these ingredients themselves.

"If you were to go individually buy all those ingredients, it would cost you upwards of $200," she said of GEM's $39-per-month Daily Essential vitamin — made with mushrooms for Vitamin D, chickpeas for bone protection and ashwagandha to fight stress. For reference, a Target 300-count women's daily vitamin is stocked online for $12.59.

The startup says it has sold over 8 million squares since going to market in 2019 online and in Erewhon locations in L.A. And it watched a near 400% spike in sales its second year.

With its first round of capital, GEM joins L.A.'s hub of venture-backed startups selling dietary supplements. In April, Venice-based Seed closed a $40 million Series A round for its daily probiotic that runs consumers $49.99 for a month's supply. The L.A. brand Ritual raised $25 million in 2019 for its $30 per month vitamin service.

Cullen said she'll use the capital to double the team, expand into retail and plan for new products.

The round was led by Pat Robinson of CircleUp Growth Partners with participation from investors, S2G and Pentland Ventures.

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