Sue Wellington (who was president of Gatorade from 1997 to 2002) has joined as chair of the board, while Andy Horrow (who spent 13 years at PepsiCo working on brands including Gatorade and Trop 50) has joined as president.
Horrow, whose resume also includes a stint at Mike’s Hard Lemonade as chief marketing officer and a founding partner role at Wholesome Tea (Inko’s, Blue Buddha), said joining Protein2o was “a rare opportunity to build something meaningful and scalable without the corporate roadblocks, inexperience and lack of funding that plague beverage companies large and small."
Horrow told FoodNavigator-USA: "This can be a massive brand and the indicators why are very clear to us. Protein is in high demand from post-workout to aiding in nutrition and satiety. But protein usually came with a lot of unnecessary calories. We are the lighter version of protein and we are very confident that Protein 2o is going to be the leader in an explosive category."
Asked where Protein2o performs the best, Horrow told us: "Protein2o performs well wherever it is shelved. In grocery, our hope is to be in the enhanced water section, by other functional products like coconut water and other popular brands like Bai. Protein 2o has an efficacy to it and we need to be where people are looking for benefit-driven products. Some retailers actually shelve us in two places….enhanced water and also in nutrition. In drug, we’ve had great success in nutrition and in c-stores, we need to be where people are looking for protein products."
He added: "The product transitioned to its current iteration [formula, packaging] in March 2016. With the packaging change came a very big product formula improvement, which included supplanting collagen with premium whey protein isolate. Collagen is not a complete protein source and consumers want whey in a big way. Since the switch in formula and packaging, the brand has taken off!"
A $4m capital raise from Protein2o’s original investment group will help fund marketing and sales in the brand’s key growth territories, said founder and CEO Bob Kral.
“With sales up nearly 300% in the first half of the year and same store sales doubling over last year, we only hoped we could attract beverage icons of Sue’s and Andy’s caliber," added Kral, who said the brand is targeting consumers that are looking for more refreshing beverages that pack in a meaningful amount of protein, without the calories.
"The best part about it is the money comes from our current investors who believe in the brand so much they doubled-down," added Horrow. "It’s smart money to take us to the next phase of growth."
Protein2o beverages contain water, 15g of whey protein isolate, natural flavors, gum arabic, medium chain triglycerides, sucralose and calcium citrate. Each bottle has 60-70 calories and zero sugar.
The beverages are now available in 15,000 stores including Hy-Vee, Jewel-Osco, Mariano’s, Albertson’s/Safeway, Rite Aid, CVS, Casey’s, Kum & Go, Sam’s Club, Giant Eagle and Amazon, said Kral, who said growing numbers of consumers want an alternative to high-calorie, chalky protein shakes with banana, chocolate or vanilla flavors.
While there was some debate at the outset as to where to stock the product, most retailers have settled on the enhanced water category, which is where consumers expect to see it, said Kral, who co-founded Protein2o in 2013 with NFL fullback Matt Suhey and Convenience Valet CEO David Baum (they secured an initial $6m in financing from CK Capital and later raised an additional $3m).