In 2011, she was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, which causes painful inflammation, dry eye and extreme fatigue, that forced her to withdraw from the U.S. Open that year. Working with a team of nutritionists, she started formulating superfood plant-based protein shakes in her kitchen to boost her immune health and get back on the court.
“Because of my autoimmune disease, I’ve had the experience of not being healthy, of suffering from pain that impacted my ability to function each day,” said Williams. “It’s not a great place to be. Since adopting a plant-based diet and exploring superfood nutrition, I’ve seen the benefits for my body, my mind and my performance firsthand.”
She returned to the professional circuit to win a Wimbledon title and Olympic gold in doubles with her sister Serena Williams the following year and by 2017 was back in the top 5.
The Happy Viking formula
“Venus’ whole-food regimen became the blueprint for Happy Viking’s core recipe,” said Neel Premkumar, CEO of Dyla Brands and cofounder at Happy Viking.
The plant-based shakes are designed as complete meals with 20g protein, one cup fruits and vegetables, one billion probiotics and prebiotics, over 60 superfoods, vitamins and minerals, ancient grains, electrolytes, DHA omega-3, quercetin, MCT oil and fiber.
Benefits listed on pack include sustained energy, lean muscle building, brain boosting power, immune support, collagen production and digestive health.
“Happy Viking is incredibly versatile for athletes,” Premkumar added. “Pre-workout, the electrolytes and BCAAs help sustain energy and prevent muscle cramping. Post-workout, the complete protein from yellow peas and brown rice aid in muscle recovery. And outside of workout – whether it is for breakfast, lunch, dinner or as a snack – the prebiotic fiber and healthy fats promote healthy digestion and keep you fueled.”
An all-star investor lineup
Happy Viking launched in December 2020 and is marketed online through the company website and Amazon. The brand has also since expanded into retail with placements in Equinox, Meijer and Kroger across the U.S.
“Happy Viking is one of the fastest-growing plant protein shakes in the United States!” Premkumar said. “It is exciting to have the support from our all-star lineup of athlete investors as we grow the brand.”
Last summer, Happy Viking raised over $2 million in a funding round backed by prominent professional athletes including Serena Williams, Michelle Wie West, Megan Rapino, Reilly Opelka, Isaiah Hertenstein and Collin Sexton. Other participants included Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman’s 35V media and investment company and Robin Arzón, vice president at Peloton.
"Venus is an incredible entrepreneur, and in getting to know her and the team she's put together behind Happy Viking, it was clear to Kevin Durant and me that the company has set itself up for success,” Kleiman said following the seed round. “No one understands the health and nutrition space like a professional athlete, and Happy Viking is proof in product form."
In addition to scaling brand awareness, the funding is being used to expand the existing portfolio, which currently includes the plant protein powder in Triple Chocolate, Vanilla Bean, Strawberry Smoothie and Greeña Colada flavors as well as ready-to-drink shakes.
“Innovation is always in the works at Happy Viking – currently we are working on launching several delicious new flavors in mid-2023!” Premkumar said.
Dyla Brands will be featuring Happy Viking at its booth #5189 at the upcoming Expo West trade show in Anaheim, CA on March 9-10.