Meet Andrew Thomas: Founder of BetterYou

ANDREW THOMAS

Andrew Thomas, Founder of BetterYouset up the company to support modern diets and lifestyles through innovative supplement solutions. BetterYou helps top up key nutrients effectively and quickly through oral sprays and transdermal (absorbed through the skin) products.

BetterYou was the first company in the world to develop a topically applied magnesium and nutritional oral spray and has been pioneering product development in this area ever since.

Tell us about you and your background. 

An only child born in the sixties, my father was a printer and my mother was a secretary for a local haulage contractor. Originally from Pembrokeshire - and after a few years in Singapore, where dad worked on the Straits Times - I grew up in Oundle, Northamptonshire.

My business background has been a pretty varied one. I’ve launched a number of businesses, all of which I believed to be ground-breaking and pioneering at the time but few made it. One was a publishing company which I created with Glastonbury’s Michael Eavis. I launched an online lingerie website, platforming new UK designers and I’ve had two design and marketing agencies. The stars seemed to have aligned with BetterYou. 

BetterYou came about because of my chance encounter with an inspirational biochemist called Juan Rossello. I was on a photoshoot at the time for Wrangler jeans and we got talking at a restaurant. I told him I had been an asthmatic since the age of 12 and he told me I should reduce my dairy intake and apply a particular form of magnesium onto my skin. It was one of those simple moments that transforms your life. He sent me the magnesium which I used until I’d run out. It certainly helped and I asked where I could buy more, at which point he told me that it wasn’t commercially available and that he’d obtained it from a mine in Northern Holland and that if I wanted more I’d have to go and talk to them. So, I did. 

The mine managers, both geologists, were amazing and we agreed that I would help to make transdermal magnesium a commercial reality and BetterYou was subsequently born. I’ve been asthma-free now for almost thirteen years so you could say I’m rather evangelical about this.

What inspires you and motivates you?

I’m motivated by passion. My own and of those around me. Without it you rarely see anything of any worth in this world. I guess I love a challenge and when I come across an idea that seems just so obvious and so right yet has not been done before, or more likely not done properly in my eyes, I can’t leave it alone.

What have you worked on or achieved with the BetterYou (or in general) that you are most proud of?

BetterYou has allowed me to enter one of the most positive industries there is. People within it are so generous with their time and their experience. Juan’s knowledge and inspiration allowed me to pioneer a form of magnesium supplementation that, I’m proud to say, has helped thousands of people.

I’m also proud to be a co-author with Dr Jeremy Nightingale of the World’s first clinical study on transdermal magnesium as an alternative to IV infusions and subcutaneous injections for patients with short bowel stomas. The study was centred on patients at St Mark’s Hospital, London, and Jeremy is one of the foremost authorities on gastroenterology in the UK.

Dr Charles Heard, Head of Pharmacy and Pharmacology at Cardiff University, has absorption-tested every product concept we have ever produced. It was he who introduced me to the concept of intra-oral spray delivery.

About 11 years ago I had developed an oil-based vitamin D supplement with the late and wonderful Jan de Vries. Jan had been tracking the growing number of published trials and could see the undeniable argument for universal supplementation of the vitamin before most others. I asked Charles to test my formulation and he asked whether I’d considered delivering the liquid in a spray form. I hadn’t and I asked if he could test the absorption, and the results were astounding. 

Absorption rates were at least as good as tablets and subsequent trials showed that, for the growing number of people with digestive issues, absorption can be twice as effective. The reason being that the spray delivers the active directly into the bloodstream (via the rich vein system within the mouth) rather than relying on the rather lengthy and increasingly inefficient digestive route. And so nutritional oral sprays were born.

What piece of advice would you give to someone who is looking to set up their own company or start their own personal project?

Do it. There is no better feeling… and this comes from someone whose past is littered with failures. But if you do, don’t confuse confidence with ability. Always take the opportunity to listen to people willing to talk to you. A successful entrepreneur will often have a unique skill set, but it’s rare that we have all that’s required!

The other thing I’d say is never, and I mean never, chase money. A great idea that is well executed will eventually deliver a livelihood, but if you want it to pay from day one you may be disappointed.

I am often invited to speak from the point of view of a successful entrepreneur, but I admit that I can’t help but feel a bit of a fraud. Not only have I failed more times that I’ve succeeded I have actually worked for somebody else almost as long as I’ve worked for myself. Maybe this has helped me develop another requirement for success - humility. If it doesn’t help you get success it may help you enjoy it a little more when it comes.

BetterYou is doing great work in looking after our planet and it’s natural resources, tell us more about The Better Planet Project.

The Better Planet Project came about from our desire for self-measurement. We knew that as a manufacturer, we were contributing to the problem, so we needed a plan that would help us grow our consciousness and provide a ‘home’ for such initiatives.

You can’t make progress unless you know your starting point. We began by encompassing initiatives already in place, such as a passionate commitment to understanding the provenance of every ingredient we utilise. This was the only way we have been able to make a commitment to only using palm oil free ingredients. By giving these values a home, a tangible cause, it seemed to elevate them in the mindset of the entire team. 

Secondly, we challenged our plastic packaging but found it to be more environmentally friendly than using metal or glass which used far more energy to make and transport. Around two years ago, we pledged to use either plant-based plastic or recycled plastic (from ocean waste and post-consumer recycling) for our entire product range. Our plant-based plastic is actually carbon-negative, as more CO2 is absorbed during the plant’s growth than is generated during production and every part of the product’s transportation.  

Of course, all our plastic is 100% recyclable and we have set up a scheme with retailers where we will receive back empty packaging if customers can’t recycle themselves. Which also brings me to one of our most important initiatives to date… BetterYou’s Plastic Petition

The way we see it, it’s pointless updating our packaging and customers diligently separating plastic for recycling, if up to 70% of it is simply sent to landfill, incinerated or shipped abroad. The technology to recycle everything here in the UK exists and it is commercially viable. The problem is that every local authority has their own idea of sustainable recycling and none of them are held to account as there is no way of formally measuring them. A plastic bottle collected and recycled in Sheffield may be buried in Rotherham ten miles away. 

So, we’re petitioning for a unified approach to plastic recycling across England; single code of conduct and performance measurement for all local authorities to follow. We’d love for you to add your voice to ours by signing online.

What would be your top tip to help encourage others to live more sustainably and mindfully?

The main thing is to challenge. Challenge yourself to do something different, one initiative at a time. Don’t treat this like a January diet that you’ll never sustain. Do little things but make them meaningful. You’ll be surprised how they grow. The second thing is to challenge what you can’t see. A circular economy needs to be just that and we need to trust that our authorities are playing their role.

What are you most excited to work on in 2021?

We just launched a fantastic new product range in partnership with Madeleine Shaw. I don’t believe there’s ever been a collaboration quite like this within the nutritional supplement industry. It just felt so right from day one and the team have produced some amazing support. We are also entering the area of personal support from pollution, which will be an important and growing initiative for BetterYou.

What do you look for when finding the perfect gift?

The key is to make it feel personal. That the choice of gift says that you know the recipient. It doesn’t have to reflect a deep knowledge, but it must provide an element of individuality… of course this could simply come down to the message on the tag!

What is your LITTLE FIND? (Favourite product on A LITTLE FIND)

The Charcoal Problem Solver Soap Bar for Teens. What a lovely proposition. As a teen I had problems galore. Skin was only one of them, but it’s a good start!

It’s always fun to end with a quickfire round...

  • Favourite TV series right now? My wife and I have just finished The Serpent. We loved it – and how authentic did they manage to make it?!
  • Last thing you cooked? Yesterday was Valentine’s day and so I cooked a roast chicken with buttered leeks, carrots and roast potatoes. My wife is German and for her this represents a little exotic novelty! I cut her carrots in the shape of love hearts.
  • Favourite Instagram account to follow? Madeleine Shaw and of course BetterYou
  • Best book recommendation? Anything by Cormac McCarthy. Sunset Limited was my last read and I could see the stage play in my mind’s eye from the first page. The Boarder Trilogy is one of the best book collections I have ever read. A book I have on audio that I am on my third listen to is Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. It’s both educational, entertaining and breath-taking. It makes you shake your head at who we are.
  • Perfect way to spend your weekend? At home and outside. I’m lucky to have a beautiful garden with a little wood and so playing and eating outside with the family is just a privilege. 
  • Best restaurant you’ve eaten at? I’ve been lucky enough to eat at so many wonderful restaurants, many stay with me just because of the location, company or simply the moment. Daniel, just off Central Park, was probably my most memorable so far. My wife and I went there for our anniversary. I think it was also the most expensive.. maybe that’s why!
  • Country you’d love to visit? Any in South America. When I finished my degree, I travelled around Central America for quite some time but never made it to South America. I find the thought of it exhilarating.

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