Recapitalized Vitargo recalibrates strategy, dosing as it exits bankruptcy

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

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Getty Images
Newly recapitalized sports nutrition brand Vitargo is bolstering its scientific staff, rethinking its strategy and refining its dosing as it exits bankruptcy.

The brand recently emerged from a Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding. As it did so, it added Susan Kleiner, PhD as director of science and communication. Kleiner, a Seattle-based practicing nutritionist who consults with private individuals as well as professional sports teams, has used the product in the past with her clients. She also launched a now defunct sports nutrition brand of her own based on the underlying ingredient called Vynna, which was aimed at women.

Vitargo is the brand name of a patented carbohydrate technology developed by Lyckeby Starch in Sweden, where the ingredient is still made. Vitargo licenses the technology from Lyckeby. The ingredient is made via a heat treatment technique, which Kleiner emphasized is a gentle, ‘natural’ process. It yields an ultra-high molecular weight, easily absorbed ingredient, described as a fractionated barley amylopectin. Research has shown it to be the most rapidly digesting carbohydrate source on the market.

“The ingredient is made from barley, though you could use another starch source such as potato or corn. This is food processing technology. It’s not some Frankenstein type of process,”​ Kleiner told NutraIngredients-USA.

Early focus on strength trainers

Kleiner said the company is refining its message and rethinking its strategy about who its main customers are. Before spiraling into bankruptcy, the company had via a word-of-mouth promotion strategy landed on intense weight trainers as its core market.

Those consumers appreciated the molecule’s proven ability to replenish glycogen stores in depleted muscles faster than anything else on the market. The company had done research on power output in the second phase of hard, two-a-day workouts with a dose of Vitargo in between​.

To meet the needs of this market, the company was advertising a large dose, which equated to 300 calories or more per serving, depending on the SKU. In addition, there was the issue with the rapid uptake, which could equate to a blood sugar spike or even unwanted weight gain for consumers who hadn’t first depleted their glycogen stores via an intense workout. The old packaging included a warning of sorts that read: “If you don’t train, you aren’t ready for Vitargo.”

That could complicate attracting less highly focused consumers in the market who might also be trying to management their weight. These consumers fit into the so-called Active Nutrition end of the market, consumers who are attracted by the advertised benefits of sports nutrition products but who are not dedicated strength athletes themselves.

Flexibility on dosing

Kleiner said as the company refines its marketing strategies, it has also started to emphasize the dosing flexibility of the product. Kleiner has often spoken in the past about how doses of especially carbohydrate sources ought to be calibrated to consumer’s body size and goals, and Vitargo’s tub and scoop delivery mode meant to be mixed with water allows for that.

“Our data shows Vitargo is nearly twice as fast emptying from the stomach than maltodextrin or other sugar sources,”​ Kleiner said. “You can consume much more Vitargo without stomach upset than other commonly used sugars. It shows faster glycogen replenishment and up to 23% enhanced performance post ingestion. That whole story is there.

“We still don’t want people using Vitargo who are not exercising. But while the focus in the past was on strength athletes, the technology was first invented with endurance athletes in mind. Not everyone needs 300 calories before they train, so we have changed our standard dosing to one scoop,”​ she said.

“This will still appeal to the elite athlete but it will broaden out with some of the work I’ve done. When you go into the gym fasting you are not going to train as well as if you give yourself some fuel. And we want to support people on their journey who are just starting to try to move more. The goal is to accomplish athletic challenges, but that doesn’t mean you need to be a competitive athlete,” ​Kleiner said.

Active Nutrition Online Event

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Kleiner will take part in a discussion forum on this topic on May 23 as part of NutraIngredients-USA’s upcoming Active Nutrition Online Event​.  The event will include a market overview session provided Diane Ray of the Natural Marketing Institute. It will also feature ingredient-specific sessions sponsored by Kyowa Hakko USA and Mitsubishi International Food Ingredients.

Joining Kleiner on the discussion panel will be Tim Avila, principal in the consultancy Systems Bioscience, and Rachel Kreider, MPH, manager of innovation at bodybuilding.com​.

For more information on this FREE event and to register, click here​.

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