Tespo Connect Review: A Noisy, Messy Failure
While I’m a disciple of the vitamin, gobbling down a half-dozen pills isn’t really the highlight of my day. But this is by necessity. I take multiple products because multivitamins are the equivalent of carpet bombing that doesn’t really hit the target. Instead, I take specific supplements that address my known (or at least imagined) biochemical deficiencies. That unfortunately means taking a bunch of different pills, since you just can’t get everything in one go.
Tespo promises to solve all of those problems with its Tespo Connect system, a combination of hardware and subscription service that serves up not pills but rather bespoke, customized, liquid vitamins, right from your kitchen counter.
Tespo sells a wide range of ready-made vitamins, but the real intrigue is in its Tespo Personalized product, a customized pack which is “made just for you.” After registering on Tespo’s website, you are directed to a quiz that asks your age and gender, then dives into specifics designed to help customize your vitamin pack. Have you undergone bariatric surgery? How much screen time do you experience daily? Any family history of eye disease?
There are about a dozen questions total, after which Tespo presents you with its recommended vitamin regimen. First disappointment: The “just for you” claim is a bit misleading, as what Tespo provides for everyone is its Beauty Comprehensive Base, to which you can add a handful of extras, like toppings on your froyo. Tespo is at least transparent about the price of these add-ons. The multivitamin pack is $48 to start, the Eye Booster runs an extra $2, or you can double up your vitamin D to 50 micrograms for an additional 25 cents. It adds up: My vitamins, including all the available extras save for two, came out to $54.50 for a 31-day supply. (Tespo appears to have raised prices recently; the current price for the same combo is $56.75.)
Tespo provides a full Supplement Facts sheet based on your chosen vitamins, but I was soon disappointed to see that, even after customizing Tespo’s pack, many of the vitamins I currently take weren’t in the mix. The biggest holes: no Omega-3 and no calcium—neither of which Tespo makes available as an option.
Some of this may have to do with the fact that Tespo’s vitamins are delivered in powder form. This powder is mixed with water to create a glass of what can only charitably be called liquid vitamins. The powder is delivered in something that’s a cross between a hockey puck and a birth-control package, and which can be used only with the Tespo Connect hardware. This $149 machine sits on your kitchen counter and shoots tap water into its custom glass, mixing it with a few shakes of vita-powder. Essentially it’s a Keurig for vitamins.
It’s something to behold the Tespo Connect in action. Punch the start button on top and a downright apocalyptic series of events begins. The Tespo Connect pops, shakes, and spins (thanks to a cup with a magnetic base) for a full minute before your glass of liquivites is ready. All of this appears to be happening with the goal of mixing the powder and water without a spoon. Tespo Connect is not wholly successful on this front, judging by the significant amount of vitasludge that winds up in the bottom of the glass, probably because it is just not possible.
While the liquefied Tespo vitamins have the appearance of Tang, they certainly don’t taste like the space drink. Bitter and chalky (though sweetened with Stevia and natural orangey flavors)—I found myself eventually dreading the experience of choking this stuff down every morning. Pills may not be comfortable, but at least I don’t have to brush my teeth afterward.
The Tespo Connect hardware occupied precious space on my kitchen counter (and consumed an electrical outlet), invariably with a flashing red light proclaiming a low-water condition. After only a few days, powder began to spill from the unit and accumulate beneath the vitamin pack, and the special glass began to develop a sludgy film at its base. Tespo requires a lot of daily maintenance, and much more if you want to purge the water reservoir and clean out the innards of the device. To make matters worse, after performing my first deep clean on the device, the Connect abruptly stopped working; it took 15 minutes of fiddling with it to get it going again. A few days later it ceased working again, requiring tech support intervention and another massive clean-out of vitamin dust that had escaped into the innards of the system.
As the name implies, Tespo Connect is a so-called smart device, but its app is completely frivolous, even useless. You connect the device to your Wi-Fi network, and the Tespo app keeps track of each time the Connect is used—and that’s it. The app doesn’t alert you to take vitamins if you’ve forgotten, and it requires that each serving of vitamins be manually “claimed” after the fact by tapping on the instance. For a system that offers personalized vitamins—the company even prints your name on the package—shouldn’t it be able to know they were my vitamins that were dispensed?
After a couple of weeks of testing, the Tespo Connect became just another thing that I wished wasn’t taking up counter space, and I was annoyed that the experience was actually replacing only a single B vitamin pill in my supplement repertoire and providing a bunch of stuff I didn’t really need. At a cost of over $1.80 per day for the vitamins, I really was hoping for more personalization and comprehensiveness. (It’s also worth noting that Tespo’s subscription cancellation process is surprisingly onerous. And no, you can’t use the app for that.)
A Tespo rep said in an email to me that the company “aims to improve health outcomes by tracking intake and merging that with biometric, digitally connected data to create a holistic view of a person’s unique nutritional needs” and that it will someday even provide things like time-released melatonin delivery based on sleep data from your wearable. In an interview, Tespo CEO Ted Mills outlined a grand plan to provide pharmaceutical oversight for consumers, but it all seems incredibly far away from where Tespo stands today.