Shadow Beverages to Distribute, Manage mix1

mix1 9:14mix1 announced Monday morning that it has entered a distribution and management agreement with Phoenix-based Shadow Beverages. The partnership will begin in the middle of August.

George Martinez, president and co-founder of Shadow, said that he expects mix1 — which has new ownership, a new design, and new formulations — to reach national distribution and 30-50,000 accounts by early 2015.

“Our access to the market place really allows this partnership to scale quickly,” he said.

Also enabling such rapid projected growth is the protein category, one of the fastest rising segments because of developing formula technologies and its overlap with the meal replacement category, and mix1’s brand equity: while it was abandoned by parent company Hershey a couple of years ago, Martinez said that it does have resonance with store owners.

“When we talk about mix1, you don’t really need to explain it to the larger retailers,” he said.

Shadow typically follows the industry-standard approach of a gradual market push in a specific region, but Martinez said that mix1 can move faster because of its history in the market and its infrastructural advancements.

After a shaky past with The Hershey Co., which included inconsistent sales figures, a product recall and an operational shutdown, entrepreneur Cameron Robb acquired the brand from Hershey in July 2013 and became the CEO. He has since updated the product formulations, revamped the packaging and added Stephen Vande Loo, a longtime executive with The Coca-Cola Co., to the brand’s board of directors.

Shadow had room in its portfolio for a product like mix1 after cutting ties with the GNC line of ready-to-drink functional beverages, which included 17 SKUs of sports nutrition, enhanced water and protein juice beverages. Even with the exit in early 2014, Martinez said that he still believes in the GNC trademark and the product formulations. The problem, he said, was that the product wasn’t scaling as quickly as Shadow would have liked. He attributed the sluggishness to the challenges of the category’s premium side and to the market’s lack of readiness for the products.

The company also distributes WheyUp, a caffeinated, water-based protein drink. Martinez said that WheyUp and Mix1 complement each other under one distributor portfolio because they address different consumer demands. While WheyUp targets the fitness space and aims to serve as a pre-workout option, mix1 is more of a post-workout beverage that has the versatility for other occasions, such as a snack or meal replacement, he said.

Martinez likes this versatility along with the brand’s all-natural claims, which he cited as a point of differentiation. Yet, the brand will face more competition from a developing category that understands the necessity of certain buzzwords. Earlier this month, for example, recently-sold CytoSport announced the launch of Muscle Milk Organic, made with USDA certified organic protein and gluten-free ingredients.

Even so, if Martinez has his way, there’ll be enough room on the shelf.

“We can help expand the category for retailers,” Martinez said. “We’re not necessarily looking at trading one brand to another in the category.”