Chicago-based Fair Oaks Farm Brands Chief Executive Officer Steve Jones knows the importance protein plays in a balanced diet. Jones notes that as people exert themselves, they can become fatigued and lose protein and then need to find a way to supplement that loss. “To be strong, you have to get protein back in your body, and your body doesn’t generate protein fast enough [so] you have to ingest it to get the protein back into the muscles,” he says.

Although Jones recognizes the efficacy of other protein powders and liquid supplements on the market, he notes that because of evaporation and cooking processes, taste sometimes can be sacrificed. Acknowledging this need in the market, Fair Oaks Farm Brands, with the help of equity stakeholder Select Milk Producers, Artesia, N.M., developed a high-protein milk shake that matches its efficacy with great taste, Jones explains.

Jones notes that Select, a dairy-producing co-op featuring 85 members, has helped the company deliver great-tasting products.

“[Select] requires that the farmers commit to extraordinarily high standards of performance, … they have the highest quality milk known to man, and it’s all produced in a way that is responsible not only to the environment [but] with an eye to being a model for agriculture going forward,” he says.

Featuring Select’s patented membrane filtration process, Fair Oaks Farm Brands developed Athlete’s Honey Milk in 2010. Testing the ready-to-drink (RTD) protein shake in Texas, the company learned a lot about the product and its consumers. Launched in 2011, Fair Oaks Farm Brands replaced the artificial sweeteners with natural sweeteners, simplified the packaging graphics and changed the name.

“We learned a lot in Texas in that test and applied it all to it and ended up with basically the same product but a new name: Core Power,” Jones says.

Originally available in its 20 and 26 grams of protein varieties, the company also recently released a Core Power 42-gram line in Chocolate and Vanilla flavors. Because of its high protein content and higher calorie count, the 42-gram varieties might be more popular with avid gym-goers and body-builders, while the 20- and 26-gram lines have more of a mass appeal, says Anders Porter, director of communications with Fair Oaks Farm Brands.

The RTD drink with 26 grams of protein is available in Vanilla, Chocolate and Honey flavors.  Featuring 150 calories in each bottle, the 20-gram protein beverage is available in Strawberry Banana and Chocolate varieties.

“We’re not just for the jock who is lifting weights [or] the elite athlete; we’re for everybody who is concerned about their health and their fitness, so our brand will be much more approachable,” Jones says.

Jones and Porter also note that the company has been able to appeal to consumers because of its simple ingredient list.

“We’re letting people define what they like best,” Porter says. “I think as people become more aware of their ingredient labels and [are] reading a little bit deeper into what it is they’re consuming, we’ve got something for everybody, and we’ll let them make that decision on their own.”


Opportunities abound

Available in select markets including Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Illinois, Indiana, Texas, upstate New York and the Great Lakes region as far as Pittsburgh, Jones explains that the company does have plans for national distribution but is cognizant about taking it one step at a time.

“This is a very big idea, and we’re thinking big but we’re also prudent, so we’re starting out small and we’re only going to expand as fast as we can be great,” he says. “Sometimes people rush to be national before they figure out how to be great, so we’re taking our time.”

Part of that model includes its direct-store-distribution (DSD) structure within Coca-Cola Refreshments (CCR), a wholly owned subsidiary of The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta.

“We have the full advantage of their sales reps who are managing the customers and their delivery people taking the product into the store and stocking shelves,” Jones explains. “We’ll have full advantage of them working on the brand.”

Coca-Cola announced in December 2012 that it acquired an equity stake in Fair Oaks Farm Brands to drive the growth and expansion of Core Power.

“At The Coca-Cola Co., we strive to provide people with a wide range of beverage choices that meet every occasion and lifestyle need,” said Steve Cahillane, president and chief executive officer of CCR, in a statement. “This new investment, led by our Venturing & Emerging Brands group, is another great example of our ambition to be the best brand, sales and customer service system in North America.”

Building on its relationships with Select and The Coca-Cola Co., Jones foresees many great things in store for Fair Oaks Farm Brands.

 “In five years, I want you to be able to walk into a Whole Foods or a Kroger or a Wegmans and I want you to see 15 Fair Oaks Farm Brands products on the end aisle,” he says. “Core Power will be one for the fitness enthusiast … and protein is so important that we believe it’s got a lot of expandability to a lot of consumers and a lot of different needs, so our intent is to have multiple products under the Fair Oaks Farm Brands name.” BI