Enhanced water taps $6-million equity line
CHICAGO — The beverage innovators at Protein2o Inc. have completed an initial round of capitalization with access to over $6 million in equity and working capital thru its partnership with CK Capital, a capital-management firm specializing in actively managed investments.
Protein2ohas prepared itself to meet the rapidly increasing demand for its naturally flavored waters enhanced with protein and electrolytes. After a period of testing in gyms and two regional convenience-store chains at the end of 2013, the company began selling in earnest in 2014.
“The founders of Protein2o are all experienced retail, beverage and distribution executives so we knew we had to offer an affordable product rooted in a key consumer need,” said co-founder and CEO Bob Kral. “We also knew we’d have to serve our retail customers and other distribution partners with excellence. Even the best product won’t succeed if it’s poorly serviced and marketed; you have to flawlessly execute. Our preparation, including our capital plan, is allowing us to deliver on every aspect of the business as we tap into the latent consumer demand Protein2o is satisfying.”
Based on the success of its 2013 market tests, the firm sped up plans to begin selling through primary consumer channels. Beyond fitness centers and gyms, several convenience-store, grocery, drug and specialty chains are now selling Protein2o, including Hy-Vee, Mariano’s, Roundy’s, Sunset Foods, Fareway Foods, Woodman’s Markets and Vitamin World.
Approvals and formal market tests with other national U.S. retailers across all distribution channels are entering next phases, according to the company. Further, major national distributors like Eby-Brown and McLane Co. have approved the products for their distribution network. The firm has also initiated shipments into Canadian markets and is nearing exporting programs into Europe and Australia.
“We thought we were going to be successful, but even our in-depth planning didn’t foresee how much demand there is for a low-calorie, great-tasting water infused with protein,” Kral said. “Although it’s a great problem to have, ensuring we’re keeping up with our rapid growth is critical. For example, we’ve expanded into our second bottling plant and anticipate onboarding our third later this fall.”
Early sales volumes indicate consumers are seeking healthy beverages and low-calorie protein sources that taste good. In its first six months, Protein2o’s sales have already exceeded levels achieved by several other successful beverage start-ups in their first year of business, including the highly successful launch of Honest Tea, a benchmark comparison for the firm.
“When I was the senior vice president of merchandising at Walgreens, I launched several products, and I’ve never seen a product start as quickly as Protein2o with the exception of 5-hour Energy and vitaminwater,” Kral said. “Those products created a new category or subcategory by meeting a consumer need so it worked for the manufacturer, the retailer and everyone in-between.”
Protein2o, Melrose Park, Ill., is a crisp, clean water enhanced with 15 grams of protein to nourish the body and electrolytes to keep consumers hydrated. The product is available in 16.9-oz. bottles in three flavors: Berry Splash, Grape Splash and Lemon Splash.