Capping Year that Saw Tripling of Sales, Protein2o Extends into Energy with Protein/Energy Hybrid; Recruits Someoddpilot as New Agency to Stoke Digital Activities
Protein2o, fresh off a year in which sales of its protein-infused waters tripled to likely $15 mil range, is extending into energy segment with 2-flavor line that sports 125 mg of caffeine and same 15 g of whey-based protein, at only 70 calories per bottle. Protein2o Energy, debuting in Mar in Blueberry Raspberry and Cherry Lemonade flavors, will sport same half-liter plastic bottle and be line-priced with core entries. The brand will be available online in coming days on Amazon and Walmart sites. Among retailers who’ll be first to embrace new line are Rite Aid, Discount Drug Mart and Hy-Vee. Sell-in is expected to be a bit longer for key retail partners like Walmart and Target who shelve the brand in multipacks in supplement/health sections of store.
In interview today, Protein2o prexy Andy Horrow said that after establishing presence as #1 low-calorie protein brand in US, Chicago-area co was seeking right category adjacency into which to expand, and settled on energy as in synch with the sustained energy function that users rely on protein drinks for in the first place. And after all, protein and energy “are two of the most sought-after ingredients in food and beverage right now,” he observed. In contrast to conventional energy brands that are loaded with sugar and artificials, “this one starts from a healthier and more functional place,” he said. But it’s positioned as a protein-plus entry, rather than having any ambition of going head to head vs Red Bull, Monster or Bang, he added. Protein2o Energy sources its caffeine from green coffee beans. Line is produced at Castle Co-Packers in Latrobe, Penn.
Launch is approaching at time that co founded by former Walgreens exec Robert Kral closed out 2018 with tripling of sales, Andy told us. He wouldn’t disclose case or dollar sales figures, but based on case sales figures disclosed last fall at Expo East, when execs spoke of 700K case sales, that would seem to imply co broke $15 mil mark, after about 5 years in market. It launched, recall, as upgrade over the bottled water people were drinking, much as new extension aims to be upgrade over peoples’ energy brands. Part of that can be attributed to broader retail footprint, including national presence at Walmart, Target and now Sam’s Club, and entry into new grocery banners like Publix, in Q3. But Horrow said velocity ignited by triple-digits across existing accounts as co worked hard to get shoppers to sample brand. E-commerce channel also has ignited, to point where it now accounts for 15% of total sales, with Amazon platform delivering 35% reorder rate that suggests co is barely scratching surface. On instant consumption front, brand boasts such c-store partners as Speedway (2,500 stores) and Casey’s General Store (1K stores) but is just getting started on reaching endemic channels like exercise chains.
Still, co will be careful not to bite off more than it can chew in 2019, Horrow said. It’s close to inking its first DSD partnership, in test of whether that might prove fruitful distribution option, particularly in cracking immediate-consumption channel. Prospective partner is located in co’s Midwest base, but Horrow declined to identify it until contract is executed. Protein2o also plans to up its game in consumer outreach, concluding agency review that brought aboard the digitally adept Chicago shop Someoddpilot that’s boasted clients like Saucony, Patagonia, Second City and Dyson. Its mandate will be not only to deliver breakthrough creative, but to better navigate digital/social channels, building base of micro-influencers like fitness experts, dieticians, personal trainers and people who’ve successfully shed weight. Not in plans is move into celeb endorsement realm, on theory that most consumers by now must have figured out that those are financial transactions.
Publisher: Benj Steinman Editor: Gerry Khermouch Senior Editor: Jim Sullivan