While there is no shortage of high-protein shakes gracing shelves at mainstream as well as specialty retailers these days, there is a gap in the market for more refreshing beverages that pack in a meaningful amount of protein, without the calories, says the boss of one of the fastest-growing new entrants to the market.
Put it this way, says Protein2o president & CEO Bob Kral, many consumers are watching their liquid calories pretty carefully, and they don’t want to spend an hour in the gym burning calories only to replace a good portion of them 30-seconds after their workout by guzzling down a ‘recovery’ shake.
“When I was at GNC [Kral was SVP merchandising at GNC in 2009/10], I saw protein [beverages] doing some really high numbers and when you see the needle moving so significantly, you know there is a strong trend coming,” adds Kral, who launched his naturally flavored waters enhanced with protein and electrolytes in gyms and a couple of regional convenience store chains in late 2013.
Today, Protein2o is available in Hy-Vee, Mariano’s, Roundy’s, Sunset Foods, Fareway Foods, Woodman’s Markets and Vitamin World, with approvals and market tests with other national retailers across all distribution channels in the pipeline.
“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,” says Kral. “I’ve never seen a product start as quickly as Protein2o with the exception of 5-hour Energy and Vitamin Water.”
He adds: “A lot of people don’t want a high-calorie, chalky shake in banana, chocolate or vanilla, and while there were protein waters out there such as Kellogg’s Special K20 [which is now available as a powdered product only] it only had 5g of protein in, and I knew that 15g was the sweet spot for most people. “People want to build lean muscle without calories, and that’s pretty hard to do when you are trying to stick to a 1,500 or 1,800 calories a day diet; we have created a new lifestyle protein category to meet their needs.”
Packaging is deliberately gender neutral, like Sparkling ICE
Sugar-free and lactose-free Protein2o – which contains a blend of whey protein isolate and hydrolyzed collagen, natural flavors and fruit and vegetable juice – contains 15g of protein per 16.9oz bottle and 70 calories. It is sweetened with sucralose and comes in three flavors: berry, grape and lemon.
The price is typically around two-for-$4 or three-for-$5, while the slim-line packaging is “deliberately gender neutral” and designed to have mass market appeal, much like that of the ultra-successful Sparkling ICE, which appeals to a similar demographic, says Kral.
“I knew that this product met a latent demand for lower calorie, great-tasting beverages with protein. We also wanted to create a product that’s affordable, and for consumers to try all the flavors.”
Retailers want products that are going to grow the category as a whole
Kral, who worked at Walgreens for 27 years before heading to GNC, is also in a better position that most entrepreneurs to know what retailers are looking for from a new product, and what they expect when it comes to supporting it in the trade. “Retailers want products that are going to grow the category as a whole,” he says. “And scanning data from stores we are already in shows that we are doing that, and bringing in shoppers who spend more.” The fact that he and Protein2o Inc co-founders former NFL fullback Matt Suhey and Convenience Valet CEO David Baum have managed to secure an initial $6m in financing from CK Capital to support their endeavor has also given customers confidence that the firm has the money to support itself in the crucial early stages of its growth, he says.
“We feel confident that we’ll be in the top 15 grocery chains in the US in the next six months, and we’re also talking to all the leading drugstore chains.”
Click HERE to read where Protein2o came in the latest Instant.ly shelf score test showing purchase intent scores for new products at our sister site BeverageDaily (spoiler alert – it did rather well).