When Shadow Beverages acquired the Whey UP brand in June, the goal was simple – transform a niche market protein-based energy drink into an everyday beverage with a widespread consumer base. Now armed with sleek new package and improved taste profile, WheyUP will attempt to make the leap to mainstream with crossover appeal in both the sports and functional beverage categories.
Launched seven years ago, Whey UP was the first protein drink with added caffeine, but it had trouble moving out of its home state of Arizona. Shadow, which produces a number of other energy and functional products, including Ironclad Energy + Hydration, and GNC-Live Well, Drink Well Beverages, saw potential in the strength of Whey UP’s brand name and dual functionality and felt that the company could expand beyond its relatively small target audience of fitness buffs and gym rats, according to Shadow COO Sam Jones. However, when Shadow made the decision to purchase Whey UP, the company knew that it would need to make significant changes to the product.
While WheyUP still contains 20 grams of whey protein and 150 milligrams of caffeine, Shadow added a host of new B-vitamins to the mix and reformulated the beverage as an all-natural product. WheyUP also introduced three new flavors, Orange, Berry and Grape, flavors that help to mask Whey UP’s protein content, Jones said. The ability to do so been greatly improved since Whey Up’s was first introduced to the market, he added.
Shadow also gave Whey UP a new bottle with a full shrink wrap label that is translucent from top to bottom. The name of the product is now more prominent on the label with the color of “Whey” in yellow and “UP” in silver.
“[The new package] has a very familiar feel to sports drinks and is much more appealing to consumers visually,” Jones said.
Yet while the bottle’s new look may resemble a Gatorade product, and even though the brand feeds off the sports drink category, Jones acknowledged that the beverage won’t compete or make any real impact in the segment. He explained that the focus for Whey UP now is about bringing new users into its consumer base and bridging the gap between protein, sports and functional beverages.
“It’s still a little confusing as the product is on the fringe of sports and protein [categories],” Jones said. “But dual functionality has worked well in beverages. We just need to get consumers’ attention and communicate the benefits of the product quickly and effectively.”
Jones said that Whey UP will covet new consumers who are aspirational in terms of personal health and fitness and, in particular, women.
“We’re looking at stay-at-home and soccer moms,” Jones said. “We know we have a pretty good history with females drinking Whey UP.”
Whey UP will join other Shadow products as part of the company’s existing DSD contracts, and Jones said that the brand will be represented in 20-25 percent of country by the beginning of 2012. Shadow expects first quarter sales of the beverage to exceed those of its last three years combined.
“Our national distributor network is excited about this opportunity,” said George Martinez, the president of Shadow Beverages. “National and regional retailers are looking for brands with the strength of the WheyUP trademark and brands that support the health and nutritional beverage category.”