Philanthropy: Kirkman Nutritional Supplement Company

NCNM Partners are companies with values and future visions that align with NCNM’s. Their financial support helps fund original research, residencies, clinics, scholarships and other college programs.

Kirkman is a 66-year-old Portland, Oregon-based firm that makes high-quality, pure supplements, specially formulated for those with sensitivities. The company, and its CEO David Humphrey, are especially well known for support of autism research while developing products to help autistic patients.

Founded in 1949 in Seattle, Washington, by Lyle Wellman and Bill Graham, the company was purchased in 1967 by entrepreneur Stan Bachman and moved to Portland. In 1982, when Bachman retired, he sold Kirkman to his good friends, Ken and Helen Humphrey.

The Humphreys developed a close personal relationship with Dr. Bernard Rimland, a researcher passionate about a particular multivitamin product he wanted to get developed for special needs individuals, like his autistic son. Dr. Rimland reached out to as many as 20 companies to further develop and manufacture his multivitamin. Kirkman was the only company that agreed to manufacture the supplement, even though the batches were small and initially unprofitable. Ken Humphrey knew he needed to help. This multivitamin would become Kirkman’s Super Nu-Thera.

The belief was that a multivitamin with high vitamin B-6 and magnesium content could benefit certain individuals who had dietary or environmental sensitivities. Special needs individuals usually have limited diets and need to help their body through supplementation. Super Nu-Thera has grown to be a top product for Kirkman.

When Ken Humphrey reached age 78, he called his son David and asked for help to run the company. At that point, David Humphrey was an attorney in Hawaii and owner of one of Hawaii’s largest jewelry companies. David agreed and ushered in an era of significant growth for Kirkman.

First though, he had to learn the company from top to bottom. Ken insisted that David answer the phones to talk to customers firsthand. From this experience, David gained a deep understanding of the needs of Kirkman’s customers and developed a strong commitment to serve those needs.

David quickly increased the supplement business to include more than 300 products. Some of the ingredients were hard to find; he was asking for casein-free and gluten-free years before anyone knew about grain issues. Now gluten- and casein-free products are everyday items.

David went on to serve the special needs community in more ways than providing healthful supplements. He co-founded the Autism Treatment Network, now called Autism Speaks, as a network of hospitals and physicians dedicated to establishing treatment protocols for autism. In addition, David founded the Autism Coalition for Treatment, which focuses on establishing treatment services globally for individuals with autism. He is also a co-founder of the Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs, a nonprofit organization that teaches doctors how to treat special needs individuals.

David was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2007. However, he researched his condition and looked at both conventional and natural medicine. Through this research, David learned he would have to change his lifestyle to keep his body healthy. As part of this new lifestyle, David found that it was hard to find clean, tested, toxin-free products. Environmental contaminants were everywhere. As a result, Kirkman set out to create a new standard of purity in its supplements. In 2011, the company introduced Ultra Tested.

“Because we supply products to many people with sensitivities to contaminants, we’re probably more alert to those [damaging] toxins,” said David, now president, CEO and owner of Kirkman Group Inc.

Kirkman’s protocol calls for testing every raw ingredient for more than 950 environmental contaminants, including 24 heavy metals, bacteria, yeast, mold and common allergens. Every product Kirkman manufactures is Ultra Tested for purity, except for creams, lotions and oils. One reason for issuing such a strict purity protocol is evidence that suggests environmental toxins (that could be found in raw ingredients) are causing serious health issues, especially for children.

Today, Kirkman provides supplements to customers all over the world. It continues to focus on providing safe, potent products for people with sensitivities and allergies.

How to Give

Opportunities abound to support the education of NCNM students and the work of NCNM faculty, including the campaign for a new library. In the natural medicine business? Check out our Partners Program.

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