An interview with Nina Mullen, Co-Founder of Hilma
Hilma makes natural, herbal remedies that are scientifically backed. Hilma’s aim is to make herbals accessible to a mainstream customer, who has embraced natural products in food, beauty, and household items, and is looking for a comparable option for their medicine cabinet staples. The company has four products: Immune Support, Tension Relief, Upset Stomach Relief, and Indoor/Outdoor Support. Hilma only uses clinically researched ingredients, formulates with clinicians, and invests in its own clinical research.
Why did you create Hilma?
The “aha” moment for Hilma happened around a common immune support product– a sugary Vitamin-C packet that I gave to one of my co-founders, Lily Galef, when she was not feeling great. We had a moment of shock when we looked at the label and realized that this trusted product we had always turned to was loaded with sugar, additives, and flavorings. We both prided ourselves on using clean label products when it came to food, skincare, and cleaning products, so we were surprised to find that this product did not hold up to the same standard.
We took this realization to Hilary Quartner, my other co-founder and co-ceo who had a deep history in the natural product space. This moment soon became all each of us ever thought about, prompting us to see our medicine cabinet staples with fresh eyes and reconsider our choices.
We decided to look for cleaner, more effective remedies, and were shocked at how difficult this was. The more we searched, the more we came to understand that the product category we sought – a scientifically-backed, natural solution to help us feel better – didn’t exist. So we decided to create it ourselves.
The tagline for Hilma is “Natural Remedies. Backed by Science.” What does this mean?
The term ‘Natural Remedies Backed by Science’ refers to the ways that we’ve integrated science into our formulation and testing process. We support this in three ways:
The first is that we formulate with clinicians–we’ve put together an all-star team of practicing doctors, PhDs, and herbalists who we work with to formulate our products.
The second is that we always start with clinical research. We do an extensive review of the existing clinical research in order to select the ingredients we want to use in our formulations to ensure there is a precedent for effectiveness and quality.
The third is that we take the extra step of doing clinical studies on each of our unique formulations.
What studies do you currently have underway?
We believe in investing in research in the natural products space as it is something that is underfunded and needed. We are currently wrapping up our first three studies (on Immune Support, Upset Stomach Relief, and Tension Relief). Each study is a single-arm observation study on each of our formulations to establish a baseline for how our products perform.
Single-arm studies are a form of trial where people meeting pre-defined criteria are provided the product and monitored for possible beneficial responses. We chose this type of study because it is considered a baseline for product performance and can be compared to historical placebo or alternative product performance.
What made you interested in seeking Clean Label Project certification? What does Clean Label Project certification mean to you?
The original idea for Hilma was born out of a frustration that there were hidden ingredients in the medicine cabinet staples we grew up with. We should never need to turn to products with mystery dyes and fillers when we are trying to best support our own health. When we found out about the Clean Label Project, we knew we were a match, as their mission and reason for being is exactly aligned with ours–to create cleaner, better products! The Clean Label Project certification is a stamp of approval on all the hard work we put into making our products as safe as possible. We are thrilled to be a part of this.
Here we are, in the middle of summer, going through the second wave of a pandemic. What can consumers be doing differently in order to proactively protect themselves as much as possible?
We launched a customer listening initiative after COVID broke out to better understand how wellness behaviors were shifting, especially in the natural space and what we found was when it comes to personal wellness practices, people are investing more time and energy into these now whether it be meditation, exercising, healthy eating or daily supplementation.
What do you anticipate that the next 5 years of the dietary supplements industry will look like?
The Wellness industry is still fairly niche and prestige despite a lot of growth, however, many more people are interested in it than you may think. I think the next 5 years will show great expansion of the market into the more mainstream channels (imagine if you could pick up an amazing herbal product at a Walmart or Walgreens!). Additionally, I think you will see a lot more customer education when it comes to research and the importance of testing for efficacy.
I see that Hilma really promotes being part of the CarbonFree Fund. Tell me more about this commitment.
Our main goal as a company is to make trusted natural remedies more accessible to consumers, but sustainability and our environmental impact have been important considerations for us from the start of our business. As we built Hilma, consideration from the start was how we as a company would give back to our community in a way that mapped back to our core values. We think about this in a few ways:
As you mentioned in your question, we invest in carbon offsetting through reforestation because our environmental impact is very important to us. Our company is 100% carbon offset. We have also partnered with GrowNYC, an organization that invests in green spaces and farmer’s markets in our home city of New York. We give to them on a bi-annual basis as well as donate our time to build new community gardens in the city.
What Hilma product is your personal favorite and why?
Upset Stomach Relief, enough said :).
Nina Mullen, Co-Founder of Hilma
Photo by Bridget Badore for Hilma | @bridgetbadore | www.bridgetbadore.com