Loretta Masaro has a passion for natural health. Together with her husband, Randall DeMone, she turned that passion and their combined experience in the health-product and pharmaceutical industries into Cyto-Matrix, a leading Canadian producer of professional natural health products.
Based in Ottawa, Cyto-Matrix products are distributed across Canada. “We sell our products through licensed naturopathic doctors, medical doctors who practice holistically, and some specialty pharmacies,” explains Masaro, who serves as president at Cyto-Matrix.
The couple launched the company 10 years ago, holding down other jobs during its early days. As the company took off, Masaro came to believe that she needed more than a background in clinical nutrition to run the business. She went back to school and earned an MBA. “The business courses gave me a new confidence, financial understanding, and an ability to look at things from a new perspective,” she says.
with Loretta Masaro
1. What does innovation mean to your company?
We would describe innovation as state-of-the-art formulations backed by safety and efficacy data.
2. How do you innovate on a day-to-day basis?
You really have to have your finger on the pulse of the market. We analyze scientific data daily. I read PubMed every day to see what the latest research is saying. If there’s enough evidence to support a new product, then you bring one out. Sometimes the research tells us how to reformulate existing products.
3. Is there an technology, trend, or idea that’s driving your company forward?
You can’t be complacent. You always have to be vigilant. And you have to stay in touch with the customer on a regular basis. We never follow a trend for the sake of following a trend. We let the research and the experience of our clinicians drive our products.
4. How do you cultivate innovation among your workforce?
You start at the very beginning, during the hiring process. We look for people who have already demonstrated examples of thinking outside the box. We have a policy of not hovering over people and watching their every move. While they have to stay within our company guidelines, we want them to be creative.
5. Where do you hope this innovation will lead you in the next five years?
We want to continue producing the best, most evidence-based natural health products on the market. We do hope to expand into the US in the near future. Their regulatory system is quite different, so we are working to adapt to that.
The company’s product lines include vitamins and minerals, botanicals, probiotics, and protein powders. Cyto-Matrix prides itself on product standardization. “Our products are quite different from those you would normally find in a retail store,” Masaro says. “Doctors expect a higher degree of active ingredient in our products.”
When the company considers launching a new product, it takes time to carefully assess what naturopathic doctors need. “They have very different needs compared to laypeople, who shop at retail stores,” Masaro explains. “We start by assessing the key needs of clinicians who are practicing.” An advisory board of naturopathic and medical doctors then reviews the products. Once that is done, the products are tested.
The company manufactures products in a state-of-the-art facility. “Our products are produced in strict compliance with the regulations of Health Canada,” Masaro notes. Once a product has been produced, it goes through another round of testing with naturopathic doctors, to make certain it works as expected without side effects. “We need to see what the product does when used by real patients,” Masaro says. “The entire process enables us to bring innovative and effective products to the market.”
That focus on research and testing makes Cyto-Matrix stand out among natural health product companies. “We are really known as an evidence-based company,” Masaro says, noting that Health Canada research found that while 71 percent of Canadians use natural health products, 49 percent expressed some level of skepticism about their effectiveness. “The reason people are skeptical,” Masaro explains, “is that they have seen a lot of misleading ads, and it has left them with the impression that our industry is lacking in evidence.”
Masaro sought to change all that with Cyto-Matrix. “We search the scientific literature to make certain that our products are safe and that we don’t make any claims that aren’t supported by scientific research,” she says.
That stance has produced a reputation for credibility that has translated into loyal customers. The company doesn’t use binding agents, fillers, and colouring agents in its capsules. “Many patients of naturopathic doctors have allergies and heightened sensitivities,” Masaro explains. “Products with those sorts of additives can interfere with treatment.”
In fact, Cyto-Matrix avoids additives altogether. “What you get in our products are the pure ingredients,” Masaro says. “We don’t add sweeteners or flavouring agents unless they are natural.” The company also uses vegetarian-sourced capsules, instead of the animal-based gelatin capsule used by other companies. Inside the capsules, the company only uses highly standardized botanicals and the active forms of the vitamins and minerals.
Masaro notes that the company has grown largely through word of mouth. Earning the trust of naturopathic doctors has been the decisive factor driving the company forward. “We want to be the most-trusted natural health products company in Canada,” Masaro says. “When we set out, we felt that if we gained the trust of our customers, success would follow from there.”
The company has achieved that trust by devoting itself to making the most scientifically supported natural health products on the market. “We will never release a product that we have even the slightest question about,” Masaro says. “We’d rather start all over again than risk losing the trust of the physicians we work with.”