Recover was Kill Cliff’s first product. Brand founder Todd Ehrlich, a former Navy Seal, launched Kill Cliff Recover around 10 years ago to be the kind of drink he and his colleagues wanted while in the military—functional but with no sugar or artificial colors. The carbonated Recover is sweetened with stevia, contains B-vitamins and electrolytes, and is colored using beta-carotene.
Ehrlich’s military ties feature heavily in the products. Portions of sales go to the Navy Seal Foundation, a fact printed boldly on the cans and bottles of the products. It has also been available in 1,000 exchanges on Navy, Army, Airforce, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard bases.
“It has been a goal of ours to put KILL CLIFF on the shelves of Walmart stores across the country, so current fans have easy access to our products and we can reach brand new audiences,” said John Timar, COO of Kill Cliff, in a press announcement released yesterday.
“Walmart’s commitment to American companies perfectly aligns with our core values, and just days into the partnership we’re already seeing an incredible response and impressive sales,” Timar added.
The company has seen website traffic and online sales skyrocket by 195% in the first quarter of 2019, the press release stated.
“The intense growth is proof consumers want clean energy and hydration on the go, but it must taste great and be free from all the junk found in most energy drinks on the market today,” according to the company.
Kill Cliff is enjoying consumer demand for so-called clean label products—an industry term used to describe products with no artificial ingredients and a short ingredients deck—that has boosted other brands in the sports and energy drink category, such as the Li Ka-Shing backed Celsius.
The Walmart deal also exemplifies the crowding ready-to-drink (RTD) sports drink set in mainstream channels. Convenience stores are stocking up on RTD sports beverages that were once only available in bulk powder format, for example, creating more competition for traditional supplements retailers.
When a category is crowded, differentiation is key. Its product lines Ignite (positioned as a preworkout) and Recover are both sweetened with erythritol and stevia, both commonly found in the sports drink category. But where Kill Cliff stands out from the crowd is in its product line Endure, launched in 2017 and not currently distributed in Walmart, which uses the slow-burning carbohydrate isomaltulose.
Endure uses a branded form of isomaltulose derived from non-GMO beets called Palatinose, marketed by Germany-based ingredient supplier Beneo.
“There is a race among manufacturers to reduce traditional sugar usage in their products and we feel that is the right direction for manufacturers and consumers,” Jerry Barker, VP of operations at Kill Cliff, told us last year.
“We at Kill Cliff care about what goes in the bodies of our consumers and we continue to support that trend across the industry.”