It’s been about a year since the PepsiCo/FRS distribution relationship started to fray, as then-CEO Carl Sweat brought on retailing specialists L.A. Libations to start exploring opportunities in drug and club chains. A few months later, the fray was a tear, and PepsiCo and FRS ended their relationship. Also torn out of the picture was Sweat, who left the company and has now resettled at In Zone brands.
But FRS isn’t done changing; an interview with current President and CEO Dave Henderson revealed that the transitional relationship with L.A. Libations has ended, largely the result of an ongoing shift in the companies’ product approach — rather than focus on its drinks business, the quercetin-based supplement company will take a broader portfolio approach and look to supplement-friendly retailers like GNC stores as its core channels. With respected former sales head Rich Libonate back in his old position, expect execution in that direction.
Here’s our recent e-interview with Henderson:
BevNET: Can you explain the company’s direction regarding its beverage portfolio?
Henderson: The FRS Company provides healthy nutrition for an active lifestyle. Since its inception, FRS has sold ready-to-drink beverages through traditional channels, but we have also sold other forms, such as powders, chews, and concentrates via www.FRS.com and nutrition channels. Beverages have always been an important part of the company’s portfolio, but not the only part. FRS has tremendous growth potential beyond beverages alone.
BevNET: Is the overall product platform shifting toward nutritional/supplement retailers and branding and away from a more mainstream CPG approach, particularly as it applies to beverages?
Henderson: Our goal is to target healthy, active consumers where they work, play and shop. That includes traditional grocery, but it can include other outlets like specialty, natural, health & fitness, gyms, hospitals, corporate campuses and many other places where healthy active consumers spend their time. In many cases, these other retail locations can sell our entire portfolio—RTD, powders, chews and concentrates.
BevNET: How does that change in platform affect the company’s relationship with retailers?
Henderson: Being a nutrition platform broadens the selling opportunity with retailers. In our online business, over 50 percent of FRS consumers purchase multiple forms—beverages are less than half of our business there. We know that model can translate to brick-and-mortar stores, as well, presenting a selling opportunity beyond just beverages. Ready-to-drink products can continue to reside in the traditional beverage aisle, while the chews, powders and concentrates can also be stocked in other areas, such as HBC or Sports Nutrition.
In some cases, this requires us to work with a broader set of distribution partners who focus on these retailers. We can work with a DSD partner to deliver drinks to the beverage aisle and a warehouse distributor to sell our powders, chews and concentrate in the HBC aisle of the same store. It’s slightly more complicated, but ultimately it’s good for everyone: consumers, customers, distributors, and FRS.
BevNET: Can you confirm that the company is ending or curtailing its relationship with L.A. Libations? At whose request is that change occurring?
Henderson: L.A. Libations has been a valued partner and was instrumental as we transitioned out of the Pepsi distribution network. As we broaden our focus beyond beverages, we are transitioning our retail representation in-house. This is in no way a reflection on L.A. Libations. The nature of our business requires us to focus on multiple forms—and therefore multiple distribution channels—that reach beyond beverage exclusively.
BevNET: Can you quantify or elaborate further on the company’s future sales and marketing direction?
Henderson: From a marketing perspective, FRS will continue to focus on the healthy, active consumer and we will emphasize the brand’s breakthrough benefits: sustained energy, endurance, and immune system support. The goal is to leverage those strengths to continue driving awareness and purchase. We have an incredible product that is backed by clinical science and we have built a strong following among athletes, dietitians,trainers, and wellness experts. The more people learn about FRS, the more product adoption we see. As we continue to drive that awareness, we need to make sure FRS products are readily available at retail.
In terms of sales strategy, we will continue to focus on specialty grocery, health & fitness, and natural channels as well as traditional grocery. These are the channels where our target consumers shop, and it is incumbent on us to grow our availability in those locations.