“We don’t really believe it’s a healthy image to promote,” Pin Up Girl Protein co-founder Shannon Sofield told NutraIngredients-USA. He started the protein powder company together with his wife Jennifer, officially launching it in February.
In terms of the product formulation itself, there isn’t anything fundamentally different when designing a protein for men versus for women, Sofield said. It contains whey protein isolate, natural and artificial flavors, xanthan gum, and sucralose.
“While our products can be taken by a male, and there isn’t an ingredient or anything else that differentiates it from a protein used by men…we think it’s an education thing,” he added.
From its Rosie the Riveter-inspired packaging to its website featuring images of women performing squats or deadlifts with barbells, the Sofields want to emphasize their brand’s messaging: They want to help build strong women.
Women-focused as opposed to gender neutral
The start-up joins the wave of companies trying to soften the image of performance nutrition and even energy products. Examples include protein brand OWYN and energy drink brand Uptime, both striving for a gender-neutral brand image to appeal to wider audiences.
But to the Sofields, gender-neutral didn’t cut-it. “Recently [there has] been a surge of women trying to build muscle and be fit and healthy, rather than being skinny. That’s where the brand genesis came from,” Sofield added.
Hence, Pin UP Girl Protein wasn’t meant to ‘soften’ protein products, but rather to add a voice in a sparse marketing space within the protein category.
“Companies that are trying to be gender-neutral are hoping to capture just a small portion of the male versus the female,” he argued. “But we feel that, with our branding and our message, it’s time for something like this to come about and commit to becoming a woman-focused product.”
The concept plays on the ‘healthy selfie’ culture described by healthcare branding agency Interbrand Health last year. Sports nutrition products aren’t bought only for the functional benefits and promises they tout, but as an extension of the consumer’s image he or she wants to broadcast to the world.
Online for both commerce and marketing
Only a couple months old, the company is focusing its sales online through its Shopify-based storefront, and starting recently, Amazon Prime.
“Since we are so new, sales are understandably growing at an exponential rate driven by our social funnel and paid advertising,” Sofield said, without delving further into numbers. He added that the company’s Amazon Prime operation is achieving is similar growth.
Beyond commerce, online is also where the Sofields believe brand messaging and marketing is most effective.
“Our sales funnel begins at Facebook and Instagram, and works through to our blog which provides a resource for women looking to learn more about protein,” he explained. “The blog articles funnel into an email sign up form that continues to educate women on protein using a pre-defined email series.”
As part of its mission, Pin Up Girl Protein uses its online platforms to raise awareness of two charities. These are SheLift, a nonprofit that organizes retreats and adventures for women and girls with different abilities, and Girls on the Run, an organization that teaches life skills to girls in meetings twice a week, incorporating running and other physical activities in its curriculum. Sofield said a portion of Pin Up Girl Protein’s sales go to these organizations.