For today’s consumers, there’s no doubt that improving energy and reducing fatigue is a high priority. In the International Food Information Council’s 2022 Food & Health Survey, 37% of respondents highlighted energy/less fatigue as the benefit most sought from food/beverages/nutrients ― topping all other options. Across generations, energy/less fatigue was the top benefit for Gen Z (38%), Gen X (42%) and Boomers (38%). For millennials, energy/less was important to 32%, ranking it No. 2 as weight loss/management and improved sleep tied for No. 1 with 33%.
Given the importance of energy benefits across all generations, consumers are turning to performance to fuel this need state. But that energy need state has evolved as consumers now want their energy from food and beverages also to contain a better-for-you (BFY) component.
“Younger millennial and Gen Z consumers are seeking ‘better for you,’ functional beverage solutions that are either not being addressed or incapable of being addressed by legacy category leaders,” says John Herman, president of Austin, Texas-based Nutrabolt, makers of pre-workout brand C4. “This is fueled by structural trends, which include a global adoption of healthier lifestyles, a new generation of health-oriented consumers, rising consumer interest in transparency and functionality and a desire for enhanced convenience in everyday lifestyles.”
This demand for functional, transparent energy solutions has helped Nutrabolt and its portfolio of performance brands to meet the needs of performance athletes and fitness enthusiasts, while appealing to consumers who are making healthy, active living a daily priority, it notes.
“Nutrabolt will continue to innovate and disrupt categories that have unmet consumer needs grounded in ‘better for you’ performance functionality,” Herman explains. “Our legacy in active nutrition will allow us to look at beverage categories with a unique perspective on innovation and ingredients.”
Pure nutrition appeal
A diverse health and wellness company, Nutrabolt’s entry into the consumer packaged goods (CPG) market began approximately 20 years ago with its Cellucor line of powder dietary supplements. Now the company has brands in more than 125 countries around the world and has become a trusted leader that is driving effective results and delivering on promises to its consumers, Herman notes.
“Our mission has been one about maximizing human potential and driving absolute brand accessibility,” he says. “In doing so, we have the most diversified consumer base and distribution strategy of any brand in the space helping consumers at all levels with a unique relevant product architecture across all channels. We lead our respective categories across all channels of trade and are trusted by consumers represented by our more than 38,000 five-star reviews on Amazon.
“Beyond the headlines though, our brands are differentiated through clinically studied and oftentimes exclusive ingredients, zero sugar ‘better-for-you’ positioning, certifications like NSF providing peace of mind and trust that our products contain only what we say they do and last but not least are recognized as having best in class flavor with a range of options from true-to-fruit ― Strawberry Watermelon ― to childhood nostalgia ― Frozen Bombsicle and Skittles,” he continues.
For Nutrabolt, the company has introduced new solutions and formulations to address a range of needs and categories.
“Beginning in a ‘more pure’ sports nutrition space with products like creatine, testosterone boosters and thermogenics to larger more mainstream categories like preworkout, aminos and performance energy,” Herman says. “With the line and architecture, we have introduced a full architecture of solutions to meet a range of active nutrition needs from beginners to advance.”
Calling C4 its “Jordan” (in reference to the Nike brand) of Cellucor, C4 is the company’s flagship brand across powders and beverage, Herman notes.
“It is our leading portfolio from our fastest growing energy drink position in C4 Energy (aka yellow can) to our market leading position within FDM and Amazon C4 Sport,” he says. “C4 holds 48% of the pre-workout category share in the US based on IRI [year end] 2021.”
Herman notes that the C4 evolution stems from the company being format agnostic and leveraging its expertise within the nutrition space to target ingredients that appeal to today’s consumers.
“Early on research supported that there was a high awareness of our C4 brand within active energy drink consumers with a meaningful percent of them already actively taking C4,” he explains. “However, beyond awareness we had to feel confident that we could build a superior and more functional solution. The energy drink category at large had not evolved to meet new consumer needs ― younger consumers ― looking for zero sugar, functional solutions that were coming from credible leaders in health and wellness all combined with an incredible range of flavors. We saw the potential for our brand to become a disruptor in a much larger global TAM that is energy drinks.”
That potential has produced broader consumer appeal. Herman notes that since its launch, C4 Energy has been able to out beyond gym occasions to everyday moments. Additionally, C4 Energy consumers are younger and more gender balanced than the company’s legacy sports nutrition consumer.
What has helped C4 reach this new consumer base has been its ability to differentiate from other players in the energy space.
“The brand has a unique persona compared to all of the other players in the space,” Herman says. “From there, we had to build a product that was more than solely caffeine, B vitamins, taurine and sugar adding true functionality with clinically studied ingredients. For C4 Energy, that includes Carnosyn Beta-alanine and exclusive licensed ingredient in the beverage space that supports muscular endurance and allows for our ‘yellow can’ to offer true physical performance benefits.”
Across the variety of C4 Energy varieties, its Frozen Bombsicle (its original release) leads the portfolio. But through its partnership with Mars Wrigley, the release of the Starburst and Skittles varieties “have been nothing short of amazing,” Herman says.
“Consumers and retailers alike have loved these new offerings and they have come to life in our full 360 launch campaigns ranging from amazing digital content, influencer support, experiential and field events and disrupting in-store displays,” he continues. “This partnership pulls on nostalgia with a ‘zero-compromise’ sugar free position that our consumers are loving and it has been a catalyst for new consumer introductions to C4.”
And the consumer response shows these nostalgia-inspired flavors were what shoppers wanted.
“Consumers have gone crazy over these flavors with incredible velocities at the shelf, repeat rates on returning customers and most importantly raving in the form of social media comments, testimonials and YouTube reviews,” Herman says.
The expertise and drive to disrupt the performance beverage market propelled Nutrabolt and the C4 Energy to where it is today, but the company used that same innovative spirit to create solutions that support the pre-workout consumer as well as those in search of cognitive health.
“The Pre-workout category is grounded in a few fundamental areas ― energy, focus, strength, endurance, hydration and ‘pumps,’” Herman says. “It is the added motivation and part of your daily fitness routine to get you in the zone to maximize your workouts and your goals. C4’s range of pre-workouts allow for solutions to meet many individuals’ unique needs and can support users at all levels of fitness acumen.”
But it was the creation of C4 Smart Energy that Herman notes took the brand from being just a performance beverage brand to being a lifestyle brand.
“Still grounded in ‘better for you’ functionality and supporting an active lifestyle, C4 Smart Energy is formulated to ignite your everyday with Cognizin citicoline to help with mental focus and performance,” he explains. “Whether you are on the go, at the office, sitting down for a gaming session or out with friends, Smart Energy is as product for you. It expands C4 well beyond the gym.”
Yet, in-house innovations is the not the only way Nutrabolt has branched out. A few years ago, the company acquired Scivation, adding the XTEND brand to its portfolio.
“Xtend shared a lot of characteristics with C4 as a brand,” Herman notes. “It was the global leader within its space, broadly viewed as the creator of the category, respected for its ingredients, dosing and efficacy and again renowned for its flavor. Xtend allowed us to gain and establish a leadership position in the third largest sports nutrition category and gain global expansion into key international markets like Asia in an extremely relevant category.”
Strategies for success
With a portfolio designed to support performance and lifestyle needs, Nutrabolt ensures that it has retail activations and marketing campaigns to get the word out.
Available at all major small- and large-format retailers, Herman notes that C4 Energy in a beverage format excels in the convenience channel, while the powder has performed well at large format grocery as well as mass merchandiser Walmart.
“Our performance speaks for itself,” Herman says. “Our retailers organically giving us more space as the consumer trends toward the ‘better for you’ healthy offerings.”
What aids that performance is the attention that Nutrabolt’s team dedicates to crafting merchandising sets to drive the path to purchase.
An example of its success was its fourth quarter 2021 launch of Starburst C4 in major retailers such as Publix, HEB, Speedway, 7-11 and many more.
“It’s almost unheard of to launch a beverage in Q4,” Herman says. “The launch was explosive and set the stage for Skittles in Q1 2022. Consumers and retailers were blown away with the colorful eye-popping displays and they successfully brought new consumers into the brand.”
2021 also marked the company naming Kevin Hart as a brand ambassador and utilizing the comedian through a variety of campaigns including Get That Hart Smart Energy.
“Kevin authentically had been using C4 for years in his day to day training regimen with his long time trainer Ron ‘Boss’ Everline, who has been a C4 ambassador for a number of years,” Herman says. “Kevin is the ultimate multi-hyphenate and when we think of the perfect voice and image of the C4 lifestyle looking to be successful in your professional/personal/fitness life he illustrates that beautifully. He has been a great partner in driving the message from our recent campaign, to social support, to most recently our partnership with LOL network on ‘Cold as Balls’ with a C4 segment that included Marshawn Lynch.”
The amalgamation of marketing and merchandising directives has helped Nutrabolt design sets that support the retailers’ needs and connecting with consumers.
“We approach in-store merchandising strategically with influencers like Skittles, Starburst, Kevin Hart and Roman Reigns,” Herman says. “Our goal, is retailer meant to ‘enhance’ the shopping experience of the consumer at their favorite retailer. We approach placement aggressively with 100 people in the field fighting for space.”
Yet, like many of the top-performing beverage brands, Nutrabolt’s brands also have found success with the adoption of eCommerce.
“A strong eCommerce and digital strategy impacts our entire organization beyond its revenue contribution,” says James Thompson, senior vice president of eCommerce and growth for Nutrabolt. “Through COVID, it was clear eCommerce was more than a top priority, but an essential line to connect with our customers. That is true in the traditional sense of our [direct-to-consumer] (D2C) website as well as leaning into platforms like Instacart, Amazon Fresh, Shipt and digitally with our retail partners. Our digital strategy is truly omnichannel with the goal to create the best brand and customer experience wherever they find our products. This entails understanding the nuances of each retail partner, their digital strategy and how to best show up to the customer.”
Thompson notes that the company embraces three focus areas ― experience, selection and consumer insights ― to support a broader impact on the business. This awards them the chance to create the best experiences, deepen its selection through eCommerce and gain valuable insights.
“The eCommerce and digital channel is a data stream we use across Nutrabolt to deepen our relationships with customers and retail partners,” Thompson says. “Trending flavors, changes in demand, survey insights, competitive trends, and behavior within our loyalty program ‘Performance Insider’ all contribute to our relationship with customers. As category leaders, we are expected to continue providing the best products and innovating where needed. This means we need to obsess on the understanding of our customers. eCommerce helps us deliver on this understanding.”
Recognizing that performance energy will fuel the growth of the energy market, Herman highlights that innovative formulas and positions with further diversify the category. Whether it’s through traditional retailers or eCommerce, Nutrabolt and C4 portfolio will likely be driving that innovation going forward.