New BODYARMOR CEO on J-Lo, taking on 800lb gorillas, and the ‘separate but connected’ strategy with Coca-Cola

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Fed Muyshondt: 'The sports hydration category will likely top $9bn this year, and our projections tell us, that this is going to a $15bn category in five years...' Image credit: BODYARMOR
Fed Muyshondt: 'The sports hydration category will likely top $9bn this year, and our projections tell us, that this is going to a $15bn category in five years...' Image credit: BODYARMOR

Related tags: BODYARMOR, Sports drinks, Sports nutrition, hydration, alkaline water

Gatorade is the undisputed leader in sports drinks, says the new CEO of BODYARMOR, which recently overtook Powerade to capture the #2 slot in the category. But after four years at Chobani, challenger brand extraordinaire, Federico Muyshondt knows a thing or two about taking on 800lb gorillas, he tells FoodNavigator-USA in his first interview after taking the helm.

“I think Coca-Cola​ [which took full ownership of BODYARMOR in November 2021] saw the similarities between BODYARMOR and Chobani in terms of size, in terms of role in the category, how both from a product and company standpoint, it has reframed the category,” ​said Muyshondt, who was chief commercial officer at Chobani before joining BODYARMOR on April 25.

BODYARMOR, he argued, is facing similar challenges to Chobani, which spent its formative years going up against 800lb gorillas Yoplait and Danone: "It's bringing this concept of superior hydration with more potassium, less sodium, and no artificial colors, sweeteners, or flavors, and it’s elevating the category, and premium-izing the category, which is a win-win for everyone.”

Incremental growth 

He added: “We are bringing in new users, we are trading up current users, and we are making our big competitor ​[PepsiCo's Gatorade] more competitive as well, forcing them to bring new stuff to the table, which is only going to help the category overall.

“If you look at total sports drinks category in the latest 52 weeks, you're talking about $8.9bn, and it's a category that's growing at 15.9%. And BODYARMOR is doing more than 2x the category growth, we’re at 40% growth in the latest 52 weeks.”

‘The sky's the limit in terms of what we can do’

Founded by Mike Repole and Lance Collins in 2011 and attracting the late NBA star Kobe Bryant as an investor and creative director in 2014, BODYARMOR “has a retail business of $1.9bn right now, so almost $2bn in retail sales, but only a 14% unaided awareness for our brand,” ​said Muyshondt, who has spent his first three weeks on the job “drinking from a firehose”​ as he gets up to speed.

So, when you think of that, the sky's the limit in terms of what we can do if we can just raise awareness.”

Body-Armor lifestyle
“Right now, we still think the US and the domestic opportunity is by far our biggest opportunity. That being said, we all want to see BODYARMOR become a global brand...' Image credit: BODYARMOR

‘We all want to see BODYARMOR become a global brand’

So where is the growth going to come from, and is the plan to take BODYARMOR into international markets?

“Right now, we still think the US and the domestic opportunity is by far our biggest opportunity,” ​said Muyshondt. “That being said, we all want to see BODYARMOR become a global brand.

“We’re considering three to five markets, but I think the global Coca-Cola team will decide what suits us best as a brand where the market conditions are better, but definitely the endgame is to see BODYARMOR across the globe.”

‘Our multipack business is growing like crazy right now’

Domestically, he said, there is still a huge amount of runway to grow, from expanding distribution in large stores, e-commerce, club, and foodservice, to exploiting tactical opportunities such as offering more multi-packs, before you even get to more strategic brand building and innovation discussions.

One of our immediate priorities right now is to play catch up on pack sizes,” ​said Muyshondt, who has had one-to-one meetings with around 75 team members since joining the business. “We're still at a very early stage of offering multipacks. Our main package is a 16oz single serve. But our multipack business, which is growing like crazy right now, is a 12oz eight-pack.”

Body-Armor-products
Image credit: BODYARMOR

BODYARMOR Lyte, Edge, Sportswater

As for the brand strategy, said Muyshondt, the core BODYARMOR sports drink accounts for around 70% of revenues, and is growing, but the three most recent brand extensions – Lyte (no added sugar), Edge (with 100mg caffeine) and Sportswater (pH 9+) – have significant potential to deliver incremental growth and take the clean label coconut-water-fueled brand in new directions.

As I look at the next three to five years, we will grow our base, but the biggest growth engines will be these three platforms,” ​he predicted.

The BODYARMOR Lyte​ ​consumer – who is “looking to avoid sugar at all costs, looking for low calories and zero sugar added,” ​is an incremental consumer, and is part of an “evolution of us going from purely focused on sports and highly emphasizing athletes to becoming more of a lifestyle brand,” ​added Muyshondt.

“We announced last year our partnership with Jennifer Lopez and she's going to be a great spokesperson for our Lyte platform who is going to allow us to cross over generationally, multiculturally but also, to get us into this lifestyle space.”

BODYARMOR Edge​, meanwhile, has “one of our highest repeat rates in our portfolio,” ​said Muyshondt, ​who sees significant potential for it to grow in the convenience channel, while BODYARMOR Sportwater​, he claimed, is “uniquely positioned within premium water as the only athlete water, but we have less than 50% ACV, so that's a distribution opportunity for us. We could easily double the size of that business just by focusing on distribution.

“Yes, it's alkaline water, but the packaging ​[wide mouth bottle] differentiates us​ [from brands such as Essentia].”

More generally, he said, “The lines ​[between sports drinks and broader healthy/functional beverages] are starting to get blurred.”

Within sports drinks, meanwhile, he said, “Whether you're a professional athlete or an everyday athlete, you're either hydrating yourself while exercising, hydrating yourself after exercising to replenish, or you're in full recovery mode. The distance between BODYARMOR and​ [fellow Coca-Cola-backed brand fairlife] Core Power ​[a protein shake positioned a post-workout drink], there's a lot of space there for innovation.”

BODYARMOR and Coca-Cola: ‘Separate but connected... we operate with full P&L ownership'

So how does the relationship work with parent company Coca-Cola, which has a pretty mixed track record when it comes to nurturing acquisitions (think ZICO​, HONEST Tea​, Odwalla​)?

You want a team that wakes up in the morning and goes to bed at night thinking about the success of BODYARMOR, and sometimes in the past that hasn't happened,” ​he observed.

“So we’re keeping our office here in New York and we're fully independent, commercially, operationally, you name it. We operate with full P&L ownership top to bottom. We're calling it separate but connected. The connected piece is where the opportunity comes to be owned by an iconic brand like Coca Cola.

“It makes a lot of sense for us to use their scale as our parent company in a lot of places. To name a few examples: foodservice, we can get into so many more outlets if we collaborate with our parent company. And then there is buying media, participating in marketing opportunities, and then purchasing​ [of ingredients, packaging etc].”

‘This is Mike’s baby…’

BODYARMOR co-founder Mike Repole, meanwhile, is “highly committed​” to making the transition work smoothly, added Muyshondt.

“This is Mike's baby, and he's been there every step of the way since I joined, available at an arm's length for any advice or anything that I need. So he's been an amazing help for me, but so has ​[president] Brent Hastie and the entire leadership team.”

blue-raspberry-featured-image

INGREDIENTS, BODYARMOR sports drink:  ​Filtered water, pure cane sugar, coconut water concentrate, citric acid, dipotassium phosphate (electrolyte), vegetable juice concentrate (color), ascorbic acid (vit C), magnesium oxide (electrolyte), natural blueberry raspberry flavor with other natural flavors, niacinamide (vitamin b3), calcium d-pantothenate (vit B5), alpha-tocopheryl acetate (vit E), zinc oxide (electrolyte), pyridoxine hydrochloride (vit B6), folic acid (vit B9), vitamin a palmitate (vit A), cyanocobalamin (vit B12).

NUTRITION (12oz): ​BODYARMOR's core sports drink contains 90 calories, 21g sugar, 30mg sodium, and 530mg potassium. 

By comparison, Powerade​ contains 80 calories, 21g sugar, 150mg sodium, and 35mg potassium; while Gatorade​ contains 80 calories, 21g sugar, 160mg sodium, and 50mg potassium. 

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