Erik Rothchild is starting from scratch, but with a 10-year head start.
A decade after he launched WheyUp, a first-to-market protein and energy drink hybrid, the brand’s founder is back with a revamped version of his original offering called FitWhey. Set to officially debut next month in about 100 QuikTrip convenience stores throughout the state of Arizona, the beverage, which contains 20 grams of protein, 150 mg of caffeine and 90 calories per 16 oz. PET bottle, will launch in Orange, Berry and Grape flavors.
The birth of FitWhey coincides with the downfall of WheyUp, whose parent company, Shadow Beverages and Snacks, recently underwent bankruptcy. Shadow Beverages acquired WheyUp in 2011, a decision Rothchild says he made when he was “out of options” after struggling to raise capital for the company throughout the economic recession. In the years that followed, the acquisition did little to grow the brand beyond its home base in the Southwest, as WheyUp played third fiddle behind Shadow’s No Fear energy line and GNC line of sports drinks.
In June of 2015 an involuntary petition for liquidation under Chapter 7 bankruptcy was filed against Shadow and in November, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Arizona approved that petition.
In the fall, knowing WheyUp was on its way out, Rothchild met with a buyer representing about 100 Arizona QuikTrip stores, where the original WheyUp brand had been a solid performer in the past. . The meeting resulted in the approval of distribution at stores throughout 2016 — provided Rothchild could source the new product.With the guaranteed distribution in place, Rothchild secured funding from friend Tim McGeehan to launch B-Fit Brands, the new company under which FitWhey resides. FitWhey will have its first production run this weekend before landing on QuickTrip shelves in the coming weeks.
For all of his former company’s challenges, Rothchild says his belief in its product never wavered. He points to the competition as proof: while WheyUp struggled under the Shadow Beverages banner, larger companies like Monster, Rockstar and Starbucks found success in combining caffeine and protein.
“All of those beverages proved the concept,” Rothchild says. “We lacked funding and later on the wrong company acquired it, but it was never about the product. I knew I’d created a great product.”