Team Mama Glow has been obsessed with Simris since we were first introduced to them last year – and for good reason! Not only do we love that they make a sustainable and vegan omega-3 supplement, the brand was founded by a mother and daughter pair. Fredrika Gullfot, PhD and her daughter Daphne Jaeschke, MSc. founded Simris in Sweden in 2011, and have been reframing how the health and wellness industry thinks about environmentally friendly, plant-based nutrition ever since.
We caught up with Fredrika and Daphne to learn more about their experience founding Simris together, the importance of properly educating people about omega-3s, and how they hope to impact the future of nutrition in health care, especially as it relates to birthing people and their babies.
What are the biggest benefits of Omega-3 supplements on our body? How are they especially necessary for birthing people and postpartum parents?
Omega-3s are one of the most important building blocks in our bodies and are crucial for our bodies to function properly. Everything from cell signaling to neuronal development depends on them. One of the most vital functions of omega-3s is in our brains – in fact, about 10-15% of our brains are made up of them! Because the majority of our brain growth happens in the womb and the first two years of life, high-quality omega-3s are critical during this time. During pregnancy and breast-feeding, omega-3s are not optional, they are a must.
When it comes to Simris® Algae Omega-3 for Mothers, it is specifically formulated to provide that extra dose of pure DHA omega-3s needed in early life. The mother takes the supplement, the baby gets the benefits (through the placenta during pregnancy and through nursing after the birth). As any new parent can attest to, there are a thousand things to think about in those early days of pregnancy and parenthood. It’s nice to be able to tick off a box knowing that you’re giving your baby exactly what they need most.
Simris supplements are unique in that they are Omega-3’s derived from algae, not fish oil. Even for people who do not follow a vegan diet, how are plant-based Omega-3’s better for us than those derived from fish?
It can come as a surprise to some that omega-3s originally come from microalgae. They’re only found in fish because of the algae that the fish eat! So, sourcing omega-3s from algae is a more direct source of these all-important fatty acids than getting them from fish oil. Fish can also contain various toxins like PCBs and heavy metals. By consuming omega-3s that come from algae, you don’t have to worry about those toxins making their way into your body.
And then there’s the sustainability factor. Our oceans are being depleted of their diverse aquatic wildlife at an alarming rate – and one of the reasons for it is the fish that are harvested for fish oil. It takes 600 sardines to fill just one bottle of omega-3 capsules from fish oil! Simris’ omega- 3 supplements are state-of-the-art, plant-based and completely sustainable, allowing our oceans to re-populate for future generations.
What inspired you to found Simris?
FREDRIKA: My background is in biotech, but I felt the need to devote my scientific knowledge and engineering skills for something greater than just joining some pharma company. For me, it was the immense potential in algae that did it. It was mind-boggling – hundreds of thousands of different varieties out there, and only a couple of hundreds have yet been categorized by science. We know more about space than we do about our oceans! And most interestingly, so many essential nutrients can be found in algae, as being the primary producers in nature. Our tagline “fall in love with algae” literally describes our inspiration.
DAPHNE: Falling in love with algae and its potential is right! With a background in high-end beauty products, I was fascinated by the realisation that nutrition and nutritional supplements have largely been treated as “secondary” when it comes to wellbeing or beauty. Skincare, for example, has always been treated as a “luxury” or “lifestyle” category. There are nutritional goods that provide not just “beauty from within,” but also contribute to a balanced and healthy lifestyle, but they’re being packaged in unattractive plastic bottles that we all hide away. I certainly saw a gap there when we started Simris, and I wanted to ensure that we develop products that are not just good for humans and respectful to animals and the planet, but are also attractive and fun. Items that people would be proud to own and use. What better educational tool for algae than immediately catching the eye and someone’s attention on the shelf, right?
What are the biggest challenges and rewards of running a company as a mother-daughter duo?
FREDRIKA: We had a couple of really tough years where everything was about Simris even when we met outside work. At some point, Daphne said “I miss having a mom” – it was heartbreaking. As the CEO, I have tried to set things up so that we can work as autonomously as possible. This actually goes for all the team. That said, as a mother, it is such a gift to be able to build something great together with your daughter. We have an almost uncanny synergy – for example, when brainstorming. I think one great thing about family-founded companies is that we are truly value-driven, down to the DNA.
DAPHNE: I think that we are able to intrinsically rely on each other more than if we weren’t related, which can make things very, very efficient! Joking aside, it is a great privilege to be able to work with a parent. I think we both agree that we have very diverse skill sets from each other, which means that we can have very good control of the business between us. At the same time, we share a wavelength on most matters around our vision for the company which means that we are always able to move forward very fast, even when challenges arise. It takes a while to figure out work versus family boundaries in the everyday working relationship, but once they solidify, it is for the best for all parties involved!
For you, Fredrika, how was nutrition an important part of raising Daphne?
FREDRIKA: We come from a big family living all over Europe, and pretty much every one of us is really interested in food and actually great at cooking. So I like to think that Daphne grew up enjoying good, nutritious food from different cultures based on wholesome ingredients as the standard. But until I personally had to deal with health issues and turned vegan, it was always more about joy and pleasure than nutrition per se. I still think joy and pleasure are the most important ingredients in a meal. By that I don’t mean sugar, fat and salt, but the immense variety of colours, textures and flavours that we find in the plant kingdom.
Daphne, how have you brought what you learned from your mom into your own parenting today?
DAPHNE: Interestingly, since my mother’s diet changed dramatically once she went vegan about two decades ago, I would say that it was that period in time that has influenced my own choices (both as an individual and for my parenting) more than my childhood has. At the same time, actively working within the wellness, food and health industries has meant that I am exposed to a lot of incredibly useful information with regards to leading a healthy lifestyle myself and, more importantly, to creating a healthy, sustainable lifestyle for my three-year-old son. In that sense, both through her own lifestyle and through her professional relationship to me, my mother has been fundamentally influential in my nutritional choices: I am now proudly vegan myself! My son Leo is being raised as a vegetarian with respect for all animals. It is wonderful to see that his generation is way more open to being plant-based than, for example, mine or previous ones may have been.
What is your wish for the future of maternal and infant health care when it comes to nutrition?
FREDRIKA: As we learn more about epigenetics, it becomes more evident how important proper nutrition is throughout the generations. It is, of course, never too late to switch to a healthier and more nutritious diet, but the truth is that you cannot start too early either. Good nutrition is, in fact, fairly easy, but we need to rebuild our relationship to real, wholesome ingredients rather than the next convenient food or supplement. Supplements should be just that: an addition to a wholesome diet, and not a replacement for it.
DAPHNE: Transparency, accurate information and unbiased guidance for parents. These are my wishes, and also what I’ve made it my mission to fight for. Industry lobbying, profit-hunting and the often uncaring approach to mother and infant nutrition has been heartbreaking to witness and I wish for it to stop. Sustainability is a hugely important piece of the Simris brand.
Can you speak to the ways in which you produce and distribute your product with protecting the environment in mind?
FREDRIKA: Yeah, today so many brands commit themselves to ‘sustainability’ and wanting to ‘change the industry’, while using the same ingredients from the same suppliers as any other brand. Some are ‘buying’ sustainability by donating to NGO:s, climate compensation or similar – but there is no true change. This is very different from Simris. At Simris, we have actually developed a whole new production process to get access to omega-3 from its primary source in nature. This process involves a completely new and entirely green technology with the aim to remove incentives for both overfishing and the use of toxic raw materials. We work directly with and through nature, not by exploiting it and then compensating for the damage inflicted.
DAPHNE: Indeed. Funnily enough, sustainability lies so deeply at the core of everything we do, that we often don’t even bother mentioning it as a unique selling point for our products!
Simris also creates a formula especially for Athletes – how is that specific formula unique to their needs?
Omega-3s are especially important for anyone who works out on a regular basis. When we exercise, our bodies can often be pushed to the limit and we need to support that exertion with the right nutrients. What is extra special about our Simris® Algae Omega-3 for Athletes is its extra boost of an antioxidant called astaxanthin. Astaxanthin is a crimson red pigment produced by algae as an extra layer of protection. In humans, it has been found to improve endurance and recovery. Athletes give their bodies nutrition that not only supports their daily life but also ups their physical performance, so we thought it appropriate to name the product “for Athletes”. But it’s definitely a win-win for anyone active.
What is the biggest myth around nutrition and supplements that you want to debunk, and what’s a fact you wish more people knew?
FREDRIKA: The biggest myth around nutrition is that it’s complicated and difficult to get right. In fact, Michael Pollan said it all: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
DAPHNE: To add to that, I do wish more people understood that most (if not all) of the nutrients they rely on animal product consumption for are in fact primarily produced in nature by plants. It has been fascinating to watch people’s amazement every single time upon discovering that, for example, omega-3s come from microalgae to begin with and not fish. Misconceptions like that perpetuate not only harmful industry practices, but also quite often bear significant health implications, too.
Order your own Simris algae omega-3 supplements online!