'Our supplements help patients, doctors and the entire healthcare system'
Nutritional supplements for people who have undergone weight loss surgery. It's a niche within a niche, but the Rotterdam-based company, Fit For Me, is the global market leader in this segment. With a tailor-made tablet it structurally changes lives and relieves the pressure on healthcare services. It’s an adventure that started in a Rotterdam student’s bedroom.
When Simon Hamer looks out from the eighteenth floor of the FIRST Rotterdam office building, he can see the intersection between Blaak and Coolsingel. There, in the Bulgersteyn residential tower, he started Fit For Me in 2004 together with Sjoerd van Berkel, who is still his business partner today. It was in a student bedroom, because they were still busy studying business administration at the Erasmus University. 'What we did was fairly simple,' says Hamer. 'People could fill in a questionnaire in their GP's waiting room about what type of food they were eating and how much. We compared that with what a person should ideally be eating. And we filled that nutritional gap with our dietary supplements tailored to the needs of the customer. And not, therefore, the standard tablet that many people would use.’
From consumers to patients
More than fifteen years later, Hamer and Van Berkel are doing exactly the same thing. Only, it’s no longer just the two of them sitting in a student bedroom, instead they have 108 employees in fourteen countries, spread across six continents. This came about because of an important switch the company made in 2009. After many discussions with various doctors, the partners decided to use their knowledge and skills in a different way. Instead of making relatively healthy people a little healthier, they decided to focus on people who needed nutritional supplements for a medical reason. 'You can then make a big impact on a smaller group of people, instead of a lesser impact on a large group. Which is more in keeping with mine and Sjoerd's character,' explains Hamer.
That's how Fit For Me ended up in bariatrics: a branch of medicine that deals with obesity. Hamer: "People who opt for bariatric surgery, such as a gastric bypass or gastric band, lose weight in a short period of time. That's because their stomach is simply smaller and because their stomach and intestines no longer absorb the unhealthy nutrients. This is great, but the good nutrients are also much less well absorbed. As a result, people who undergo such an operation often suffer from other health problems. These range from hair loss, duller complexion and weaker nails to even nervous disorders, anaemia and chronic fatigue.’
Taking the worry out of healthcare
These deficiencies can be compensated by the nutritional supplements from Fit For Me, which are recommended by surgeons, other (family) doctors and dieticians. 'In 95 to 99 percent of the cases, we formulate a single, tailor-made pill to be taken each day to ensure those people are a lot better off. And that they never have to go back to hospital for vitamin injections or other treatments. In doing so, we're also indirectly relieving the burden on the healthcare system and the economy as a whole. Bariatric surgery usually pays for itself within two to three years, because people feel better, are less often sick and are therefore more productive in their work.’
In the Netherlands, about 400,000 to 500,000 people suffer from morbid obesity, of whom about 13,000 are operated on each year. For many of them, the Fit For Me supplements are an indispensable link in the rest of their lives, just as for hundreds of thousands of others around the world. Fit For Me may be a 'hidden gem' in the Netherlands, but it is the global market leader and, since last month, is active on all the continents.
Hamer: 'We're making a difference because we invest so much in scientific research. Because our product is used for medical purposes, we, as a manufacturer, have to scientifically prove its efficacy. So we continue to invest time and money in research, including research into (morbid) obesity in children and pregnant women. We want to continue adding value for the patient and the care provider, but also for the entire healthcare system. That perfect balance is sometimes hard to find, but you have to find it. A fantastic solution for a patient may be too expensive for the healthcare system, that's where the problem lies.’
Collaboration with the Erasmus MC?
Rotterdam remains the place to be, Hamer is convinced. 'Both Sjoerd and I feel very attached to this city. The mentality suits us, we feel at home here. For our company, the greater international reputation that Rotterdam has acquired in recent years is important. The Erasmus University and Erasmus MC are increasingly highly regarded internationally. This also means that we see the Erasmus MC as a serious collaborative partner in the future. Although we are internationally oriented, it is of course nice for us to work together with Rotterdam companies and institutions. Where, of course, quality is always paramount. I would therefore like to appeal to anyone who thinks that nutritional supplementation in some other medical field could help improve the quality of life of patients. We can very quickly respond to this in our field of research and are certainly open to talking about it.’
More about Fit f4 Me
Would you like to know more, meet or collaborate with the Fit For Me? Please visit www.fitforme.com.