The entrepreneur behind Sheets Energy Strips – novel dissolvable strips delivering an instant hit of caffeine and B vitamins - says the category could be worth $1bn in the next three-to-five years.
Launched in June, the sheets, which have some heavyweight celebrity backing from NBA star LeBron James and a host of other celebrities, are cheaper than energy shots, and more convenient than coffee and vitamin tablets, Warren Struhl, chief executive of brand owner PureBrands, told FoodNavigator-USA.
“We think we’re looking at a billion dollar-plus opportunity in the next three to five years. At the moment, strips are synonymous with Listerine, but we hope to change all that and introduce a whole range of new products starting next year using the sheet as a delivery mechanism.
"We’re not just looking at the US, and have signed agreements in several countries outside the US and are actively negotiating with distributors in many more," added Struhl, a serial entrepreneur who has launched or invested in more than 30 companies, including Dale and Thomas Popcorn, which makes the Popcorn Indiana brand.
Portability and convenience
While previous attempts to sell vitamins via dissolvable strips had not taken the market by storm, PureBrands had worked hard to tackle taste issues that had hampered some previous launches, while the energy focus also gave the strips a different slant, he said.
“These are a fraction of the price of energy shots and we’re giving 200% of your daily value of vitamin B6 and B12, 100% of vitamin B5, 40% of vitamin E, 20% of biotin and 100mg of caffeine per serving [two sheets].”
The format was key to its prospects, he said. “You can always say there are cheaper ways to get vitamins or anything else, but look at the success of things like Advil pocket packs. People like portability and convenience. You can keep them in the car or in your wallet. They won't spill or melt and they have no calories, carbohydrates or sugar.”
The target audience was very broad, he said, encompassing everyone from college students and young drinkers of coffee and Red Bull to truck drivers looking for a boost without having to take a pit stop.
Response has been ‘overwhelmingly positive’
Distribution deals were progressing nicely, claimed Struhl.
He added: “We’re at Walmart, CircleK, GNC and in conversations with several other major retail chains. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. I’ve never seen as much excitement around a launch in 20 years of working in consumer products.”
Typically, the sheets were stocked on the counter – where retailers sell gum and energy shots – but were also stocked in energy, vitamins or wellness sections of stores, he said.
Branded vending machines containing the product had also been employed as part of sampling campaigns in high traffic areas in New York, New Jersey and Florida to raise awareness, he said.
‘The new way to do energy…’
The product, which is being rolled out across the convenience channel via deals with Convenience Valet and Energy1 Distribution, is supported by a multi-million dollar marketing campaign featuring co-founder LeBron James and partners including fellow basketball star Amar'e Stoudemire, rapper Pitbull, hip hop artist Drake and footballer Ray Rice.
Steve Smith, chairman of Energy1 Distribution, said: "The response we are getting for Sheets Energy Strips is unlike anything we have ever seen from a consumer product."
The strips are available in two flavors: Cinnamon Rush and Berry Blast. Each sheet comes individually wrapped in a paper-thin pouch and contains 50 milligrams of caffeine.
The Sheets team includes James and business partner Maverick Carter, who got involved with Struhl via Jesse Itzler, the former owner of Marquis Jet Partners and Alphabet City Records. Other minority partners include Pitbull and tennis ace Serena Williams.
PureBrands is a holding company set up to create and market a range of consumer products.