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To Target New Shoppers, Vital Proteins Expands Portfolio

Carol Ortenberg

Vital Proteins is ready to go beyond beauty. The collagen-focused company announced today the launch of a line of bars, sports drinks and a liquid creamers, moves CEO and founder Kurt Seidensticker told NOSH are designed to help the brand target a wider array of shoppers and expand beyond its core wellness enthusiast.

Seidensticker said Vital has been working on the products for years, including some far before investment group CAVU invested $19 million in the brand in 2017. Each line is designed to target a slightly different consumer and solve a different pain point.

“There’s an opportunity here to really help implement and educate people on collagen and I feel like these new products broaden the category further than just wellness, health and beauty side, into the more fitness and athlete and male categories,” Seidensticker said. “It gets us into the perimeter, it gets us into convenience, and it gets us into the grab and go area.”

Within the crowded nutrition bar category, Seidensticker said the Vital bar — which will launch with Peanut Butter Chocolate, Raspberry Lemon, Lemon Vanilla, Mint Chocolate Chip, Mixed Berry, and Chocolate Almond Sea Salt SKUs — offers shoppers a cleaner ingredient deck along with a better texture and taste experience. Each keto-friendly bar will offer consumers 20 grams of protein, 15 grams of collagen, with 9 to 10 grams of fat and roughly 180 to 210 calories. To keep sugar levels down, Vital is using allulose as a sweetener, which the FDA just recently ruled does not need to be counted towards total or added sugars.Seidensticker expects the bars, which are rolling out now to existing retail partners, to be in thousands of doors across mass, club and natural retailers by year’s end. He added that, with several years in the market and a strong existing consumer base, Vital has enough brand recognition to carry it into the bar space.

“[Consumers] give us the opportunity to try new things now,” Seidensticker said. “So the door opens with our brand.”

Another new category for the brand will be liquid creamers — which will be shipped ambient but sold out of the dairy case. Available in Hazelnut, Vanilla, Mocha and Coconut, the line offers five grams of collagen per serving, which Vital claims is more than any other existing product on the market. The creamers will be priced at $7.99 a bottle.

Vital already has a line of powdered creamers and whole single origin coffee beans, but Seidensticker said he wanted to offer consumers and even easier solution and create a product that could live in the perimeter of the store. Originally the company thought about creating an RTD coffee beverage, but Seidensticker, a self proclaimed coffee lover, felt there was too much “personalization” when it comes to coffee.

“Trying to come up with a product with collagen that meets everyone’s needs is a challenge, especially in coffee cause there’s such a variety of options,” Seidensticker said. “Creamers on the other hand are that functional beverage that you can add to your own preferential coffee.”Vital’s Performance line, which launched earlier this year with post-workout RecoveryWAVE powders, is aimed at attracting an entirely different customer demographic: men. At Natural Products Expo East 2019 this week, the brand will also debut pre-workout powders, a sleep powder and, most notably, a post-workout sports beverage designed to compete with the likes of Body Armor and Gatorade. The latter will come in a 24 oz bottle (larger than Vital’s current 12 oz RTD) and will contain 20 grams of collagen and less than five grams of sugar.

Together the Performance line creates a complete system for what Seidensticker calls the “the measured athlete” — or fitness enthusiasts who are tracking their food intake and fitness routines. More importantly, he said, Vital is currently used by men who are generally introduced to the brand by female friends, family and partners who discovered the product for its beauty properties. With this repositioning and increased functional benefits, Vital fits more naturally into a male athlete’s lifestyle.

“I kind of recognized that the word collagen comes off as a beauty term,” Seidensticker said. “But men who are professional athletes, those who are trying to improve their performance and their wellbeing, are really interested in this product line. It’s really an opportunity for us to expand our reach.”The expanded portfolio is expected to enhance Vital’s already positive sales performance, according to Seidensticker. He told NOSH that the company is profitable with double digit positive EBITA and is continuing to grow at almost 70 to 80 percent year over year.

With numbers like that, and recent acquisitions of other performance-oriented products such as ONE Brands and Quest Nutrition, Seidensticker said it’s “natural” that Vital has been approached about acquisition by strategics. But, he added, he has no plans to exit the business and mentioned a possible IPO or purchasing back shares from investors — ala Kind Bar — as possible examples of future scenarios.

“I want to continue to develop this company, I think there’s so much opportunity to bring health and wellness to everyone,” Seidensticker said. We’ve had a ton of strategic interest and we’re not on the market… from my perspective, I’d have to consider if we’d ever sell.”

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