Redcon1's nationwide Vitamin Shoppe distribution hints at shifting sports nutrition strategy for the retailer

By Adi Menayang contact

- Last updated on GMT

CEO and founder Aaron Singerman with three of the 28 SKUs that will be sold in more than 800 Vitamin Shoppe stores: Total War, Fade Out, and a box of MRE Bar.
CEO and founder Aaron Singerman with three of the 28 SKUs that will be sold in more than 800 Vitamin Shoppe stores: Total War, Fade Out, and a box of MRE Bar.

Related tags: Sports nutrition, Sports nutrition products, Sports nutrition sector, Vitamin shoppe, e-commerce, brick and mortar, Retail sales, Retailers, Retailing, Direct to consumer

To Redcon1's CEO and founder, the newly-inked nationwide distribution deal with legacy retailer Vitamin Shoppe is a testament to his brand, and an indicator of change for the retailer.

When Redcon1 started in 2016, Vitamin Shoppe was one of the first customers the company pursued, CEO and founder Aaron Singerman told NutraIngredients-USA.

“The category manager at the time said it was the best branding and presentation she had seen but didn’t feel it was a fit for Vitamin Shoppe,”​ he recalled.

Since then, Florida-based brand Redcon1​ has enjoyed wide distribution, available on Bodybuilding.com, GNC (and its Amazon storefront), direct-to-consumer, and more.

But in two years, things have changed for Vitamin Shoppe. Yesterday, RedCon1 announced that Vitamin Shoppe will carry 28 of its SKUs in 800 of its stores nationwide—and it was the retailer that sought them.

“Fast forward to the Arnold Sports Festival 2018, both the new Category Manager (Brent Dennison) and Vice President (Mark Hilton) sought us out at expo and wanted to get Redcon1 into Vitamin Shoppe as soon as possible,”​ he said.

A press release by Redcon1 said that the June 1 launch will be the largest sports nutrition launch for the retailer.

Brand-centric instead of product- or ingredient-centric

Branding is a key part of how Redcon1 is trying to stand out in the saturated sports nutrition category, Singerman added. Its name is a US military term​, which, in short, means a unit is fully alert, ready to move and fight.

“From day one, we set out to build a brand with Redcon1, one that stood for something and stood out in the crowd—hard work, honesty and integrity,”​ its founder explained.

“In the sports nutrition space, there are a plethora of companies, but not many of them have built a brand, let alone a sustainable brand,”​ he added.

“We didn’t build a brand that was product centric—it is brand centric. So as ingredients and regulations change, we aren’t going to be affected because it is the brand that is so strong, not just the products or a single ingredient.”

A shift for Vitamin Shoppe?

Redcon1’s national distribution with Vitamin Shoppe—in which 28 of its SKUs will be stocked in around 800 of the retailer’s stores nationwide—also indicates a shift in the retailer’s perhaps more aggressive approach to sports nutrition.

In Vitamin Shoppe’s Q4 earnings call for fiscal year 2016​, CEO Colin Watts reported that negative year-over-year trends came from sports nutrition, weight management, and on-the-go-nutrition, with the majority coming from the protein powder business. Things did not change by Q2 2017, when Watts again pointed to competition in sports nutrition​ as a big driver of decline.

During the company’s most recent earnings call​ earlier this month, though, Watts said he saw “improving trends, both year-over-year and sequentially in the sports category, notably sports protein.”

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In the view of experts, the sports nutrition category continues to be a source of innovation, despite the view to the contrary relayed by the CEO of Vitamin Shoppe during the company's Q2 2017 earnings call. READ MORE

He attributed this to working with “vendor partners in the sports category—we integrated the stores and digital marketing promotions with emphasis on social media and digital content.”

Signs of increased focus on sports nutrition from Vitamin Shoppe’s part can be seen from recent announcements made this month, such as Redcon1’s national distribution or Vitamin Shoppe’s exclusive deal with Performix to debut ioWhey Protein, a protein powder blasted with plasma​ to increase its bioavailability.

Being in ‘as many doors as possible’

For Redcon1, Vitamin Shoppe is far from its first brick and mortar foray. “Although direct to consumer represents a decent portion of our business, REDCON1 is extremely strong with brick and mortar stores, both corporate and your mom & pop shops, as well as international distribution. We are also available in over 1,000 GNC locations,”​ he said.

For its online platform, Redcon1 works heavily with athletes and bodybuilding competitors who partner as brand ambassadors. They also have a Tier Operator program, in which members have a special code and get perks when buyers use their codes.

“Early on, we pursued a multi-channel approach for distributing the brand; we want to be in as many doors as possible,” ​Singerman said.

“For the pursuit of Vitamin Shoppe specifically, many of us at REDCON1 shop at Vitamin Shoppe, so it’s only natural to want to see our products on their shelves,”​ he added. “The fact that Vitamin Shoppe decided to add 28 SKUs speaks to the fact that the entire brand is strong.”

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Active Nutrition​​ is a hot topic, but many don’t understand how it differs from Sports Nutrition​​. According to Euromonitor International, Active Nutrition is defined as, “a lifestyle choice with the primary objective of optimizing both physical and mental performance”.

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