DUBUQUE—Health isn’t just a lifestyle, it’s a way of life for business partners Sean Casey and Brian Putchio. The duo created their own combinations of sugar-free dietary supplements made with organic ingredients to help fuel the physically active lifestyles of their customers. In their first full year as business partners at Dietetic Advantage, they’ve created four products and are working on a fifth.
Casey, a Cuba City native, and Putchio, of Dubuque, are the master formulators for the Dietetic Advantage supplement line. Casey is also in charge of sales and marketing while Putchio handles logistics, shipments and technology at Nutribodies, 14858 W. Ridge Lane, Suite 4, north of Dubuque, Iowa. It is the retail location for the Dietetic Advantage line as well as the headquarters for distribution of Dietetic Advantage products.
“We research and basically construct the formulation [for each product], then contract out to MPA facilities, which are governed under the Natural Products Association, one of the highest levels of certification you can get in the dietary industry,” Putchio said.
The formula is sent out for quote and whoever wins the bid gets to make the product for Dietetic Advantage.
“Each and every ingredient in our products are thoughtfully constructed,” Putchio said. “We’re using doses that have been used successfully in clinical trials, and I think that says a lot. A lot of companies go with the latest buzzword ingredient and “fairy dust” it in a dose that really isn’t going to do anything.”
Casey and Putchio both stressed the importance of their company’s slogan: Life, health, performance.
“Everything we have in our products not only enhances physical performance, but it’s going to enhance your overall health,” Casey said. “We put a lot of focus on choosing ingredients with multi-purpose.”
When deciding which products to create, they look at the current trends. The energy products are popular, but the first product they worked on was a meal replacement powder because of its versatility for dieting or helping people eat on the go.
“There are so many meal replacement powders that are so poorly done,” Putchio said. “They usually add a lot of sugars and artificial ingredients. You’ll find, too, that they’re using carbs that should never be in there, causing high insulin release when they shouldn’t.”
They strive to create the perfect combination of a product that will be nutritionally impactful that tastes good. They look through their list of potential ingredients to pare it down to the bare minimum to ensure that they aren’t duplicating efforts while also trying to keep the production costs down.
“We believe everything we have included has a synergistic effect,” Casey said. “Each of our ingredients have a purpose and the combinations have been shown to have synergistic effects.”
Their four available products include two meal replacement powders, an energy powder and recovery powder.
“We try to have unique names,” Casey said.
-MI6, a gluten-free meal replacement powder, stands for “meal integration” with six main ingredients. This product is used for weight loss and weight management. It can also be used for a post-workout smoothie. It comes in strawberry-banana and creamy chocolate flavors.
-Oats and Whey, a simpler meal replacement powder, comes in a vanilla cream flavor.
-E2^2 (E2 squared), an energy powder released in mid-December, has four key ingredients that are synergistic—where various parts work together to produce an enhanced result. It has the caffeine content equivalent to 1-1 ½ cups of coffee. The ingredients also help the brain with focus and memory, increasing the cognition level. It is currently available in orange zest and lemonade flavors with a cherry flavor coming soon.
-REC4, a recovery product with four ingredients, is set to be available in early January. It comes in an orange sherbet flavor.
They are currently working on the research for a joint supplement to prevent joint breakdown and inflammation.
Putchio said Nutribodies, which carries a variety of vitamins, minerals and dietary supplements, was a good launching platform for Dietetic Advantage because of his existing client base, which makes it easy to get the products in front of people. It provides instant opportunity for sales. Casey has been working on getting the products across the nation through networking.
Putchio said most companies similar to Dietetic Advantage are based on the east or west coasts. He doesn’t know of any in the tri-state area.
The two met first as customer and seller. Putchio owns a dietary supplement retail store, Nutribodies, near Dubuque and Casey was a customer there 16 years ago.
“When I first met Brian, I was in high school and I didn’t know anything other than the big words from the muscle magazines,” Casey said. “I remember walking into Nutribodies, I grabbed five or six supplements and put them on the counter. He asked me what I was doing, what I wanted them for. I told him I wanted to get in good shape and he told me I didn’t need several of the items. I literally walked out with one product. I didn’t know any better, but he could have sold me six things that day. He could have made way more profit that day. I didn’t really appreciate that [honesty] until a few years later when I was doing my academic studies and went to different supplement stores. He was truly in this to improve my health and quality, and wasn’t going to sell me something that wasn’t going to enhance my life health performance.”
In August 2014, Putchio approached Casey about creating a custom formulation dietary supplement line. They finalized those plans in December 2014.
“A lot of that stemmed from my background,” Casey said. “I’m a registered dietitian, a sports nutritionist and I also do a lot of strength conditioning with people. Just trying to find products that met the qualifications I was looking for to give clients, the athletes want to know what they can take, what they can trust. I was taking four or five different supplements and “Frankensteining” them together for athletes to use. A much more efficient process is if we can produce a supplement that has the specific needs to assist health, wellness and physical fitness. Plus, then I can have complete trust in the line because I know that we’re using the top quality labs to produce it.”
Putchio has been in the business for 16 ½ years, and he informs his clients about the importance of carrying products from supplement companies using good, certified facilities and focusing on products without artificial colors and sweeteners.
“These are products that we [Putchio and Casey] consume,” Putchio said. “We want to make sure that they are healthy supplements and they are well-suited for people.”
Putchio said as a small operation, the overhead costs are low, which in turn allows them to create products that have more costly ingredients that make a bigger impact and are more functional.
“In a way, the supplement issue has gotten a bad rap,” Casey said. “There’s a lot of good to them.”
There are regulations in place to ensure it is a good product, and Putchio and Casey have gone above and beyond with the extra step of third party testing for compliance.
“For us, we have to do that,” Putchio said. “It allows us to be confident in our product line when making recommendations. It ensures that these products do not have any undeclared ingredients. Not only will it affect an athlete’s lifestyle, but there’s no chance of them getting any banned ingredients.”
Casey is traveling overseas in January to work with an athlete in Denmark who is an Olympic gold medalist hopeful.
“I have some very high level athletes and I have to have complete confidence in our products and safety that they don’t have anything banned slipped into them,” Casey said.
“We know we have to use the best facilities with the highest certifications because we have to be confident in these products,” Putchio said. “When companies don’t do that, it sets them up for so much risk and liability. To me that’s just unfathomable.”
It is a trial and error process to get the right combination, and they have to test each combination themselves.
“Most of the active ingredients don't taste great,” Putchio said. “It becomes difficult to make something taste good.
Developing the flavor profiles is very difficult and time consuming. It’s much more difficult with only all-natural sweeteners and flavors. The artificial flavors can mask a lot of things.”
To find the right combination, they obtain the raw materials and test everything themselves, keeping a journal of the results.
“We want ingredients with real world effectiveness,” Casey said. “The downside is there’s no flavoring when we try it.”
Casey, the son of Kevin and Diane Casey of Cuba City, graduated from UW-Madison with two degrees: nutritional science dietetics and exercise physiology. He has worked with football and soccer athletes through a company called Athletes Performance in Arizona and California, focusing on NFL football athletes, youth soccer clubs and MLS teams. He has his dietetic certifications through UW-Green Bay and sports nutrition certification through the International Society of Sports Nutrition. He’s been working with a wide range of athletes, from non-sport athletes to Olympic hopefuls.
Putchio was born and raised in Dubuque. He attended Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo for police science. He was hired by Target and became an executive for Target stores in Dubuque and Clinton. He had a hands-on approach to learning how to run a business and, when Target went a direction he didn’t want to follow, he started Nutribodies in 1999. He got his sports nutrition certification through International Sports Sciences Association and continues to learn more about the field through constant research.
“We’re both research-driven and product-driven, but we also compliment each other very well,” Casey said. “Brian’s business savvy is something I would not have been able to do on my own. And my education background helps us know how things will work in the body from a bio-molecular point.”
“With Sean, there’s no better person I’d rather be in business with,” Putchio said. “He’s a lot like me. We’re both very honest people and we’re always up front with our clients. We have the same philosophy.”