Last updated on October 25th, 2020 at 05:54 am
Have you ever looked closely at vitamins and wondered where they come from? Wrapped in a gelatin capsule or left naked in powder form, they likely have a fascinating origin story and complex journey into the (overly sweaty?) palm of your hand.
With lax regulatory oversight and quality control standards, it’s no wonder that most dietary supplements don’t work as promised. Creative marketing language can make most sound credible without ever really explaining the science behind their formulations. And the vitamins and minerals have likely undergone so much brutal processing in a lab or factory that it’s hard to know which remain quality enough for your body to absorb and benefit from.
Luckily, demand for greater transparency has led to innovation and disruption in the vitamin industry. In this article, we compare two modern multivitamin brands, GEM and Ritual, who are pioneering a more natural approach compared to typical women’s multivitamins. We’ll take a look into their ingredient lists, price points, and overall benefits.
If you are already familiar with the vitamin and dietary supplement industry and simply want to compare prices, skip ahead to our comparison chart. But first, here’s a bit of background on traditional vitamin supplements, and why yours might be worth a second glance.
Vitamins 101: an industry resistant to change
According to a 2017 study published by the Journal of Nutrition, more than half of all Americans take a vitamin supplement everyday, with 29% taking four (!) or more. That’s a lot of pills consumed every, single, day, and thus it’s unsurprising the vitamin and dietary supplement industry brings in a whopping $40 billion each year. And with estimates of between 50k – 80k products in the U.S.market at any given time, the FDA is simply not equipped to regulate it.
As a result, the contents of most dietary supplements remain as lawless as the wild west. Approximately 70 percent of supplements have some degree of substitution — that is, the product doesn’t contain what it says on the label– and around one third contain contaminants or filler.
These include bulking agents, binders, coatings, preservatives, emulsifiers, artificial colors and flavors, sweeteners, allergens like corn and soy, gelatin and whey (made from GMO animal products), anti-cakers, carriers, glazes, and excipients.
Yucky, right? And also dangerous. Some contaminants have even been found to pose serious health risks to consumers, so we always recommend speaking with your doctor before introducing any new supplements to your routine, especially any you plan to take daily.
Why are healthier, all-natural or organic vitamins emerging now?
Vegan supplements have traditionally been rare, and aside from a handful of boutique brands in health food stores, they weren’t widely available or adopted. Most vitamin capsules are made with gelatin (derived from animal bones), and some essential vitamins, like D3, come from lanolin, a substance derived from sheep’s wool.
Similarly, most Omega-3s are derived from fish oil, which often contains mercury. Are consumers simply unaware of their exposure, or why haven’t natural alternatives become more popular?
Unfortunately the pharmaceutical industry who profits most from mass-produced supplements is an incredibly powerful force without any incentive to innovate.
Especially since other deep-pocketed corporations like Monsanto have also helped create the nutritional deficiencies that fuel demand for cheap, mass-produced supplements. These dynamics have made changes within the industry slow and mostly non-existent, as they fund studies to “prove” the efficacy of daily supplements and perpetuate the standard of secrecy surrounding ingredients.
“Before the 1930’s, we got our vitamins from the ground, not the lab. The sad reality is that processed foods and the vitamin industry are dependent on the other’s existence. Vitamins enabled our processed foods, while processed foods gave a reason for synthetic vitamins to even exist. Without synthetic vitamins, scientists have calculated that more than 90% of us would be deficient in at least one nutrient if not way more. We need vitamins,” says Sara Cullen, Founder of GEM.
Both GEM and Ritual, respectively, were born from their founders’ need for better answers in the vitamin aisle. Recognizing that most contain superfluous, GMO, non-vegan and allergen-ridden ingredients, Sara Cullen of GEM, and Katerina Schneider of Ritual took matters into their own hands, creating vitamins that deliver only what your body needs, and none of what it doesn’t.
The new school of personalized vitamins: GEM vs Ritual and others
In recent years, brands like care/of, Baze, hundred, and Persona Nutrition have innovated on the daily multivitamin, providing subscription-based models for tailored routines based on a survey or blood test. Likewise, other brands like Vitafive, Moon Juice and Four Sigmatic have become more clever at breaking from the traditional pill format by creating new products with a wider range of individualized ingredients, like ashwagandha, reishi, moringa, ginseng, turmeric, or chaga.
GEM and Ritual are different in that they are providing a minimalist’s multivitamin for women that aim to provide just the essential vitamins and minerals that are lacking from most women’s diets. Although the two brands offer very different products, both companies are female-focused, developed by women, and are boasting true transparency of ingredients, sourcing, and purpose, which is truly unique in the vitamin and supplement industry.
Both companies share the sources of their ingredients and take transparency to a new level. For every single ingredient, Ritual has a library of information on its benefits, the source it was derived from, supporting studies, an interactive map view of all its factories, and even interviews with the manufacturers. They even encourage consumer engagement with their researchers, offering a direct email for an exchange of clinical studies.
GEM provides similarly detailed information on each ingredient included in their daily supplements, citing academic studies and describing the science behind each of their all-natural ingredients and how they work to benefit your health.
All-natural supplements with style: How form affects bioavailability
You’ll notice that vitamins from GEM and Ritual both look unique, too.
GEM developed their product based on several studies that suggest longevity can be expanded by getting nutrients and vitamins from real foods, rather than supplements. There are a multitude of reasons for this, including the fast dissolution of capsules, the inability for the body to absorb many vitamins developed in a lab, and the body’s natural purging of unnecessary ingredients.
To cite two examples among hundreds: a third of people in the U.S. cannot digest lab-produced folic acid due to a genetic mutation, and most calcium doesn’t get absorbed because of a lack in Vitamin K, Vitamin D, Boron, and Magnesium. Thus most daily supplements with those two nutrients aren’t helping folks overcome deficiencies.
GEM vitamins break from the traditional pill format. They come as a chewable, green nuggets of whole foods that are easier for your body to absorb completely. Instead of convincing Americans to take yet another pill, their vitamins are more like a tasty bite-sized treat designed to promote greater vitamin synergy through careful selection of minerals that actually work together to reach peak absorption.
Resembling health bars, GEM goes beyond the standard granola, dates or nuts, and is packed with 15 micro and macro nutrients such as several types of algae, dates, seeds, and mushrooms. These harder to find ingredients are especially useful in the absorption of iron and folate that are extra important for a woman’s diet.
Ritual delivers its vitamins and nutrients through a clear, delayed-release capsule, with visible wet and dry ingredients floating inside. Their slogan, “the future of vitamins is clear,” gives a nod to their philosophy of transparency in every facet of their brand. Most multivitamins opt for completely dehydrated powder ingredients, but Ritual includes wet ingredients to provide an easier digestive experience and higher absorption rates. These include vegan Vitamin D3 and Omega-3, as well as soy-free Vitamin E and K2.
Sustainability: Healthier for you and the planet
Additionally, both companies are putting environmental sustainability at the forefront of their brand.
The first order of GEM comes in a reusable tin wrapped in cellulose (made from wood pulp) for fast biodegradation. Every order thereafter comes in compostable, zip-seal pouches that use 60% renewable plant-based resources: the outer layers made of cellulose (wood pulp), and the interior film features an additive that allows it to biodegrade 200x faster than traditional plastic packaging.
Furthermore, the various algae (spirulina, chlorella, astaxanthin) in GEM’s vitamins are endorsed by the U.N. and NASA as the healthiest food on the planet, and among the most sustainable to harvest. Fun fact: one gram of spirulina is equivalent to one kilogram of fruits and vegetables in terms of nutritional density.
GEM also sources its Magnesium from sea minerals, its Omega-3s from pumpkin and chia seeds, its stress-reducing adaptogens from ashwagandha, and its Vitamin K2 from plants. The startup makes a point to only use ethically sourced ingredients from green suppliers. By exclusively using vegan, real foods, GEM is providing a much more environmentally sustainable supplement than other multivitamin.
Similarly, Ritual’s multivitamin is also vegan, with capsules that are made of cellulose instead of gelatin, and with Omega-3s that are made from microalgae, instead of fish oil (saving “750 anchovies and herrings per bottle”). Because Ritual is adamant about transparency, they hold their manufacturers and suppliers to the highest standards of the quality, using organic ingredients where available and avoiding GMOs.
Ritual also uses bottles that are from 100% recycled sources, and their mailers use approximately 83% recycled newsprint and plant fibers. Although Ritual admits they have room for improvement on sustainability, they seek to educate their community about living greener, not just when it comes to vitamins, but more generally in our daily habits to live a more earth-friendly life.
So now that you have a sense of how GEM and Ritual stand out vs traditional vitamins for women, let’s dive into their nuances to see what sets them apart from each other.
GEM vs Ritual: Comparing their all-natural women’s multivitamins head-to-head
GEM Vitamins vs Ritual: Daily Vitamins for Women Comparison
|Vitamin Form||Whole Food Nugget||Slow-Release Capsule|
|Dose||Once a day||Twice a day|
|Cancellation Policy||Cancel 24 hours before next billing date. No refunds available.||Cancel any time, will refund 1st bottle.|
|Taste||Chewy, seedy, hints of coconut and date. Some online reviews say there’s an earthy or ocean flavor.||Minty from non-edible, scented bottle insert.|
|Synthetics, Colorants, GMOs, or Fillers?||✖️||✖️|
|Available Products||Women’s Daily Essential in 3 flavors: Lemon, Peppermint, Cacao||Women’s Essential Multivitamin for 18+, Prenatal, and 50+|
|Ingredients, Vitamins + Nutrients|
Chlorella, Spirulina, Astaxanthin, Seawater, Chickpeas, Quinoa, Dates, Coconut, Chia seeds, Pumpkin seeds, Mushroom, Ashwagandha, Curry leaves
Vitamin D (20.5mcg), Iron (1.8mg), Vitamin B1 (.4mg), Vitamin B2 (.5mg), Niacin (5.8mg), Vitamin B6 (.5mg), Folate (120mcg), Vitamin B12 (1.7mcg), Biotin (30mcg), Vitamin B5 (2.7mg), Magnesium (210mg), Ashwagandha (130mg), Vitamin K2 (52mcg), Omega-3 (100mg), Astaxanthin (4mg)
18+: folate (600mcg), and plant-based omega-3s (330mg), vitamin B12 (8mcg), vitamin D3 (50mcg), iron (8mg), vitamin K2 (90mcg), boron (1mg), vitamin E (6.7mg), magnesium (30mg)
Prenatal: folate (1000mcg), and plant-based omega-3s (350mg), vitamin B12 (8mcg), choline (55mg), iodine (150mcg), biotin (300mcg), vitamin D3 (50mcg), iron (18mg), boron (1mg), vitamin E (6.7mg), vitamin K2 (90mcg), magnesium (30mg)
50+: folate (235mcg), and plant-based omega-3s (330mg), vitamin B12 (16mcg), vitamin D3 (50mcg), vitamin K2 (100mcg), boron (1mg), vitamin E (10mg), magnesium (60mg)
|Sustainable Packaging||The first order of GEM comes in a reusable tin wrapped in cellulose (made from wood pulp) for fast biodegradation. Every order thereafter comes in compostable, zip-seal pouches that use 60% renewable plant-based resources: the outer layers made of cellulose (wood pulp), and the interior film features an additive that allows it to biodegrade 200x faster than traditional plastic packaging.||Bottles are made from 100% recycled sources, mailers use approximately 83% recycled newsprint and plant fibers.|
|App||✖️||✔️ Apple Watch only|
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Ritual vs GEM: Which women’s multivitamin is best for you?
While both claim full transparency with sourcing ingredients, and both provide bioavailable (slow-release, better absorption) vitamins or nutrients, GEM departs from the typical women’s multivitamin by its whole food form. Form is therefore one of the biggest differentiating factors, so if you’re you’ve been looking for a non-pill daily vitamin, GEM is your best bet.
For many, eating a GEM is like a snack-breakfast to start the day with, without the painful gulp/choking hazard of traditional vitamin intake. The taste reviews seem mixed, however, with some claiming it to taste “almost like dessert,” and others unable to get past its earthy, or even oceanic tone. Honestly, the only way to tell is to taste it yourself.
Ritual also promises nausea-free absorption, and their reward system is supported by the Apple Watch App that gamifies your vitamin intake by reminding you to take your vitamins, tracking your usage, and motivating you with updates from the broader community of other Ritual users. The app also integrates with Apple Health, so that users can track their nutrition alongside physical activity.
Ritual discusses the concept behind the app, acknowledging the power of The Habit Loop. The Habit Loop’s three steps are: “Cue,” a daily dosage reminder; “Routine,” a marker that the user took their vitamins; and a “Reward,” which the brain celebrates that you’ve taken your vitamins. Thus if you find it hard to remember to take your daily vitamins, or just want to connect with a larger nutritionally-focused community of women, Ritual may be for you.
Additionally, Ritual seems to have aced their smell test, with the non-edible, mint-scented tab that’s included in each bottle. Their transparent pill capsules with floating ingredients make Ritual’s vitamin more visually appealing, reminding you of their brand’s dedication to transparent sourcing. It’s worth noting though that both GEM and Ritual share this intense emphasis on sustainable sourcing and scientific nutrition, so this is less of a differentiator.
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The Verdict: Should you try GEM or Ritual all-natural daily vitamins?
The vitamin and supplement industry has been operating in the shade for a long time, with limited regulation, fueled by marketing strategies set forth by mega-corporations who control so many of the pharmaceutical, food and produce, and everyday household products in our lives.
GEM and Ritual are challenging the status quo by providing products with limited, green and ethically-sourced ingredients, giving women only the nutrients that are lacking from their diets, and nothing more. Furthermore, these companies are operating with a philosophy of transparency and sustainability that rises high above the competition — hats off! 👏
This is important because the majority of Americans lack vital nutrients in their everyday lives, and women are especially at risk for anemia, calcium deficiencies, and mental/emotional stress due to the inability to absorb essential vitamins like Vitamin D. Not all vitamins and supplements are created equal. So many on the market are saturated with unnecessary ingredients, as well as the wrong form of ingredients that challenge absorption levels. Once again, these standards are being challenged by the new school of supplements like GEM and Ritual.
Regardless of which you choose, we recommend you check with your doctor before beginning any new health routine, and of course multivitamins should not be seen as replacements for a healthy diet or other medications.
Personally, I loved GEM’s vitamin bite — both conceptually as an alternative to pills and in terms of taste — but I realize it’s not for everyone.
If you’re simply looking for a more natural daily vitamin, made of ingredients you can trust, Ritual is the industry leader. If you struggle to swallow pills, give GEM a shot (and use discount code FINVSFIN15 for 15% off). If you want to join a large community of health-focused women trying to take their nutrition to the next level, go with Ritual. Either way, you’ll be much better off than folks taking mass-produced supplements or no vitamins at all!