Since its inception in 2001, Bio-Engineered Supplements & Nutrition Inc. (BSN) has tried to position itself to attract a “rabid” consumer base that doesn’t waiver to other sports nutrition brands, says Chris Ferguson, the company’s president and founder.

Now the company is taking its experience in specialty stores with drink powders and sports supplements to the mass market ready-to-drink category with energy and performance products.

“We’ve always positioned the company as we want to be the Nike of sports nutrition – a brand that, once somebody is a Nike shoe lover or a Nike product lover, you don’t go off to Adidas,” Ferguson says. “As long as we continue to innovate, we feel customers will follow us to any category.”

Innovation is key to BSN’s success, Ferguson says, calling his company a “one stop shop” for research and development with an in-house lab and marketing division. “We don’t manufacture on-site here, but we develop everything internally,” he says.

The company’s internal philosophy is “innovation, never duplication,” Ferguson says.

To expand into the RTD category, BSN has leveraged its N.O.-Xplode formula, which began as a powdered energy and muscle-building supplement, and its Syntha-6 protein formula for both specialty and mass market uses.

“You try to outdo yourself every time you launch something in a different way or a different format,” he says. “That’s the biggest challenge. As long as we continue to innovate, we don’t have to worry about anyone chipping away at our market share.”

Leveraging formulas
To supplement its line of performance drink powders, BSN has launched three RTD products: N.O.-Xplode Igniter Shot and Endorush, which are designed for energy and focus, and Syntha-6, a protein shake.

Launched in April, N.O.-Xplode Igniter Shot packs the N.O.-Xplode performance powder formula into a 3.7-ounce shot format that promotes physical and mental energy, better blood flow and oxygen delivery to working muscle tissue, the company says.

Using the N.O.-Xplode matrix for BSN’s Igniter Shot distinguishes it in a saturated marketplace, Ferguson says, because it functions differently from traditional energy shots that rely on caffeine and B vitamins to provide a boost. The N.O.-Xplode formula is based on nitric oxide, a naturally occurring gas in the body, that promotes the widening of blood vessels to pump more nutrients into blood cells for better performance and recovery, Ferguson says.

“Someone who takes N.O.-Xplode in powder form and scoops it and shakes it, this was built as a shot to make it easier for that person,” says Jeffrey Howe, general manager of the mass market beverage division.

Endorush is a low-calorie, 16-ounce premium sports performance product that also competes in the energy drink category, Howe says. The drink sells at a 40 to 50 percent premium between $3 and $4, Howe says. Based on the same N.O.-Xplode formula as the RTD Igniter Shot, Endorush blends energy qualities with a rehydrating sports supplement.

For hydration and electrolyte replacement, Endorush relies on glycerol hydrating polymers, such as potassium glycerophosphate and magnesium glycerophosphate, and phosphor-electrolyte replacements, such as di-calcium phosphate and di-potassium phosphate.

“If you’re a soccer player for instance, this is something you can utilize before the game, and after the game, keeping the blood flowing,” Howe says.

In BSN’s Syntha-6 protein shake, the company is trying to market to both specialty retail consumers and the mass market. Like BSN’s Igniter Shot and Endorush, Syntha-6 is based on a powder formula. As a RTD formula, Syntha-6 originally was released in a 16.9-ounce Tetra Pak with 40 grams of protein aimed at fitness buffs.

But BSN is trying to change that image. The company developed a smaller 14-ounce portion with a snowman-shaped plastic bottle in chocolate and vanilla varieties for mass market consumers. The smaller Syntha-6 has about 200 calories and 28 grams of protein, and BSN hopes to market the drink as a meal replacement for on-the-go consumers, Howe says.

Syntha-6 contains a blend of protein and amino acids that include milk and whey protein concentrate, calcium caseinate, milk and whey protein isolate and micellar casein.

“All these products, as you can see, they all start out with sports nutrition – something that does something different for you versus jacking you up or getting you up,” Howe says. “That’s the science, and that’s the secret. Quite frankly, that’s what we’re going to always say is at our core. If we lose that, we’re going to lose our specialness and lose our ability to compete if we just replicate what’s out there.”

Changing mindset
One challenge for BSN is changing the consumer mindset about sports performance drinks and winning over mass market consumers while staying true to its core of sports nutrition customers.

For Syntha-6, the company adjusted its portion size and packaging. It also changed the package design from a Tetra Pak carton that included the company’s name spelled vertically to include scoops of chocolate and vanilla ice cream splashing into liquid.

The company plans to market Syntha-6 both as a decadent treat and as a healthy alternative to fast food, Howe says.

In addition to point-of-sale marketing, distribution and channel strategies are important to BSN’s success going forward, especially in the RTD arena, Howe says. The company distributes its products in 35,000 specialty retail outlets, such as GNC and Vitamin World, but BSN is growing in mass market channels.

For example, Howe says BSN has seen increased demand from the drug store channel as those stores devote more space to protein products and sports performance bars. Convenience stores and gas stations remain the No. 1 priority for BSN’s beverage unit, he says. The company also has some opportunity to expand its sales in vending, especially offering its energy products in the work place and cafeterias, he says.

Howe describes BSN’s original distribution strategy as a “shotgun approach,” but he says now it is trying to narrow its focus to its core markets, specifically areas of the United States with a high propensity for working out and geographic markets with large populations. BSN products are distributed in about 100 different countries as well.

“The specialty side is our core business, but where we’re going in the future and where we see the company taking us in a new direction is using that technology or innovation to differentiate ourselves in the mass market beverage category,” Ferguson says. “…We don’t want to be another ‘me too’ energy drink. We want to take the existing technologies we have and build them into something nobody else has versus one more energy shot or one more energy drink.”BI

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