‘The meal replacement category is on fire,’ says founder of ketogenic beverage brand Bear Squeeze

By Adi Menayang contact

- Last updated on GMT

‘The meal replacement category is on fire,’ says founder of ketogenic beverage brand Bear Squeeze

Related tags: Low-carbohydrate diet, Protein

Packed with MCT oil, kale, pumpkin seed protein and probiotics, start-up Bear Squeeze wants to be known as a “higher-end, cleaner Soylent,” said co-founder and president Max Baumann.

If there’s any indicator that a large group of consumers are stoked about a meal replacement powder formulated to meet the requirements of a ketogenic diet, let that be California-based Bear Squeeze’s performance on fundraising platform Indiegogo,​where it raised 421% of its $25,000 goal, a good month before its fundraising deadline.

The brand also snagged the top prize​ at the new beverage showdown competition at BevNET Live last month, showing that Baumann has gotten the industry excited about his brand as well.

Baumann told NutraIngredients-USA that the impetus to start Bear Squeeze, which he launched in May last year, was seeing the success of meal replacement brands like Soylent, which recently moved from exclusively digital to brick-and-mortar. Soylent CEO Bryan Crowley said last month that sales performance in the offline channel “blew away expectations.”

“The meal replacement category is on fire…​ [and Soylent’s] move to some 7-Eleven stores really showed that,” ​Baumann said.

Bear Squeeze may be riding on Soylent’s wave, but it wants to send a very different message than its fellow Californian drinkable meal replacement company.

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Bear Squeeze president and co-founder Max Baumann, who has prior experience in the CPG industry from his time as president and founder of retail merchandising firm Basemakers, where he has worked with brands like RXBAR and Bulletproof.

“Different people have different needs, and some people won’t even touch Soylent because ​[the company is] pro-GMO, and they’re loud and proud about that,” ​Baumann said. He added that, while the market is saturated with different brands aiming to be a higher-end, cleaner Muscle Milk with its high protein content, “What we’re aiming to be is a higher-end, cleaner Soylent.”

Formulating the product

Another trend that Bear Squeeze is tapping into is the ketogenic diet, which is currently spiking in popularity​ after a gradual increase of searches on Google starting December 2016.

Simply put, the diet calls for low carbohydrate and high fat consumption. When in low-carb mode, the goal is to have the liver produce ketones as a source of energy.

When creating the powder blend, Baumann wanted to make sure the product can check off many trending ingredients. “The ingredients that we use are some of the top-selling ingredients on Amazon—you look at coconut oil, mainly because of the MCT…it’s our first ingredient,” ​Baumann said.

“We also want to be a company that stands behind clean protein, so we use pumpkin seed protein for that. We also want to ensure we have pretty nutrient-dense greens, so we put kale and spinach in our product,” ​he added.

Bear Squeeze also contains fiber such as blue agave to act as a prebiotic, as well as a probiotic blend of L. acidophilis​, B​. infantis, B. longgum, ​and B. coagulans​ at 20 billion CFU.

Ready-to-drink… ish

For the first launch of products, Baumann opted to eschew the ready-to-drink (RTD) format. He also decided against tubs or pouches of powder. Instead, Bear Squeeze comes in bottled powder, a format seen here and there as prototypes at trade show floors but not so much on store shelves.

“We wanted to first start on ecommerce, and the ship weight of a ready-to-drink product on ecommerce is a massive barrier to a lot of people buying—you’re looking at over $10 of shipping and handling,” ​Baumann said.

“We also didn’t go with a multi-serve container because we wanted to be very convenient, ready-to-go, and what we’ve found during research is that these multi-serve containers can end up just sitting on top of your fridge,” ​he added.

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