It’s an interesting play in an expanding space: NEXT Proteins, the current project of Designer Whey and Detour Bar founder David Jenkins, is attempting to sell its collection of protein-centric intellectual property to a strategic beverage company investor.
Jenkins has been on the market using Xapp, a carbonated protein energy drink, as a kind of proof-of-concept stalking horse for the technology – one which he claims is outselling mainstream protein drink Muscle Milk within its small Reno, Nev.-test area by about four to one.
But Jenkins insists he isn’t interested in a full-time gig in the beverage business, having weighed the cost of starting a beverage company for national roll-out against his age and what he believes is a highly marketable suite of patents.
“The carbonation has tremendous benefits,” Jenkins said. “It extends the shelf life, produces a much better taste, and the way the patent is structured is that all but one of the patents speaks to carbonation. The other is how to get protein into drink plants as to be instantly pumpable into drinks. It’s never dried, never put into bags, it’s kept in a liquid farm, and it can be held prior to manufacture for a significant amount of time.”
In October, Jenkins bolstered the sale of the idea, instead of the CSD, by bringing on healthy living-focused investment bank Partnership Capital Growth Advisors to help shop the deal.
It’s the second time PCGA and Jenkins have worked together – earlier this year they sold off his Designer Whey portfolio to Designer Protein LLC, a subsidiary of Athena Wellness Brands. Under co-founders Brent Knudsen and Tripp Baird, the investment bank has been heavily involved in the beverage space as part of its core health and wellness practice, helping pull in dollars for everyone from acai players Sambazon and Mona Vie to protein brands mix1 and Muscle Milk.
It’s hoping to do the same for Next Proteins, which has a portfolio of four protein beverage technology patents in the U.S. and has approvals in 33 other countries.
The technology is focused on using carbonation to mix protein into beverages without any kind of the off-flavors or cloudiness associated with protein drinks. Even more important, from the perspective of large beverage companies, is Jenkins’ claim that the patent covers a way to add the protein in a liquid form, negating the need for specialized blending equipment for dry protein powders.
Jenkins could be seen shopping the idea during BevNET Live in Santa Monica, and he also presented at the Nutrition Capital Network during a Fall event.
If there is substance behind Jenkins’ patents, it would clearly have value, according to sources.
Nevertheless, the competitive environment for protein products has been heating up in recent months; one example is the recent re-launch of Whey Up, a non-carbonated but caffeine and whey-protein enhanced workout drink purchased earlier this year by Shadow Beverages. Its return to market features a much less detectable protein flavor, one that underscores the attention that flavor and ingredient companies have been giving to their approach to protein blending as the market has grown.
Still, the manufacturing advantages and flexibility allowed by Jenkins’ proprietary technology – it can be used to supply everything from what he calls a protein-rich “rescue serum” capable of providing disaster survivors with sustenance while help arrives to an appetite-suppressing “Izze with protein,” and also to create a version of a carbonated protein drink that could be sold in natural foods stores — are tantalizing, as is his own successful track record with other innovations.
A former sprinter who won an Olympic silver medal for Great Britain, Jenkins was one of the earliest known advocates of several kinds of athletic performance enhancers, from protein (he was the first to recognize the power of protein derived from whey and built both Designer Whey and Detour Bars into successful enterprises around it) to illicit steroids (he served federal prison time in the 1980s after facing federal charges related to his role as the alleged mastermind of a scheme to smuggle anabolic sterioids from Tijuana, Mexico into the U.S.).
While no large organization would confirm meeting with Jenkins, that is to be expected in a field in which non-disclosure agreements are stock-in-trade.