Protein-infused water brand Protein2o has added two beverage industry veterans to its leadership team and raised $4 million in new funding as it seeks to establish a leadership position in the segment of low-calorie protein beverages. The company this week announced that former PepsiCo executive Andy Horrow has joined the company as president and former Gatorade president Sue Wellington has been tapped to lead its board of directors.
“It’s an incredible opportunity to work with individuals that have been in this business… and been extremely successful [in helping] us navigate through some of the pitfalls that we’ll be facing in the future,” Protein2o founder and CEO Bob Kral told BevNET.
Launched in 2013 by Kral, a former merchandising executive for Walgreens and GNC, and his son Robert, Protein2o is five-SKU line of products that are formulated with 15 grams of whey protein isolate and contain 60-70 calories per 16 oz. bottle. The drinks are primarily sold in the at grocery, club, drug and convenience stores in the Central and Midwestern U.S. and available nationally at Rite-Aid. The brand will also be sold nationally at CVS stores beginning in September.
Kral said that sales of Protein2o are up 300 percent in the first half of 2016 and that store sales have doubled over the previous year. The addition of Horrow and Wellington will help the brand continue to grow and develop, he said.
“The ability to have them assist us in getting this product out and getting the message out in an effective way and the experience they have behind it can only help us accelerate our growth,” Kral said.
A 20-year beverage-marketing executive, Horrow came to Protein2o from premium tea company Wholesome Tea, the maker of Inko’s and Blue Buddha organic tea, where he was a founding partner and CMO. He also spent 13 years in various roles at PepsiCo, including as chief marketing officer of Tropicana, and three years as global marketing director, CSDs. From 1996 to 2005, Harrow held various marketing positions at Gatorade, where he was largely responsible for the brand’s advertising, communications and influencer efforts. After departing PepsiCo, Horrow was chief marketing officer of alcoholic lemonade brand Mike’s Hard Lemonade.
While Horrow will draw on his experience at Gatorade in his new role, he described Protein2o as a lifestyle brand that is “not trying to compete with” the sports drink giant.
“We emulate Gatorade from a success of brand standpoint,” Horrow said. “But I don’t at all see this as being competitive in that sense. Sports is going to be part of our business and a significant part of our business, it’s not going to be the only part. I think the biggest opportunity for us is to extend protein as an all-day beverage, anything from a snack to muscle recovery to satiety at a low-calorie level. Whereas people are looking at Gatorade for sports, we want people to think about Protein2o as protein first. That’s where I see the big opening and the big difference for us.”
Wellington, who Kral called “one of the best branding individuals in America,” will support that strategy as the non-executive chair of the company’s board of directors. She spent 15 years with Gatorade and was the brand’s President and CEO from 1997-2002. She is largely credited with spearheading revenue growth of the brand from $250 million to $4 billion. Since retiring, Wellington has served on the boards of tech company CDW and The Women’s Sports Foundation.
“Look down the beverage aisles and it’s easy to see that people are looking for more out of their beverages than just refreshment,” Wellington said in a press release. “Like Gatorade, Protein2o has a truth…an efficacy. There’s some real physiology here and real nutritional value and I plan on helping this brand become the next big thing in the beverage industry. “
Protein2o raised the round of capital from its original investment group. The $4 million will primarily go toward new staffing and marketing initiatives, including targeted awareness and trial campaigns.
“The strategy for us is building around anchor accounts,” Kral said. “In a geography where we’re able to build around one or two really big accounts, that’s where you’re going to see us really jump in, put feet on the street [and] put a lot of muscle in the area.”
“We’re really trying to make a name for ourselves as a recognized brand,” Harrow added. “You’ll continue to see us explore exciting marketing, improved packaging, innovation — the whole thing. We are just getting started.”