The company Protein2o makes protein waters using whey protein isolate that have been formulated to get rid of chalky residue and, as Horrow described it, “unnecessary floaties.” The result is a transluscent drink, each bottle serving up electrolytes and around 10g to 15g of protein depending on the specific product.
“Protein is still one of the two most sought after healthy ingredients, along with fiber, that consumers are looking for in stores,” he told us. “Protein2o will continue to appeal to consumers looking to add protein to their day for a variety of reasons. While consumers continue to trade in their less healthy beverages and their highly caloric beverages for something better, Protein2o will continue to grow in appeal.”
Citing Nielsen data, he said the company has enjoyed three times the sales it did this time last year. “This is thanks to great new distribution at Target, Walmart, Sam’s and Speedway, but also incredible velocity,” Horrow said.
He added that sales are up by double-digits at its largest grocery chain partners, like Safeway-Albertsons, Giant Eagle, and Hy-Vee.
Beginning in mid-August, Publix will be carrying three flavors (Peach-Mango, Dragonfruit-Blackberry and Kawaiola Coconut) of Protein2o’s new naturally sweetened line of protein waters, which contain 10 grams of whey protein isolate and 60 calories. The 16.9 oz bottles will be placed in the enhanced water aisle of Publix stores across Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia.
Carving a niche in the protein space
Despite the crowding protein beverage space, Protein2o is thriving in the niche it carved in the mainstream channel.
It was founded in 2013 by Bob Kral, former SVP of merchandising for Walgreens and GNC, and his son Robert Kral, a former Johnson & Johnson sales executive.
Nielsen ranks it as the number one brand in the protein water segment (in terms of sales), which includes other brands such as BiPro, and products by sports nutrition legacy brands Isopure and Optimum Nutrition (both under the Glanbia Performance Nutrition umbrella).
“Long gone are the days when only body builders used protein to supplement their diets,” explained Horrow, who spent 13 years at PepsiCo working on brands including Gatorade. He joined Protein2o as president in 2017 after the company raised $4 million in capital from its original investment group.
With its marketing and gender-neutral branding, Protein2o has been targeting “people losing weight, fitness enthusiasts looking for muscle recovery and all healthy people looking to have a more balanced diet,” Horrow said.
“Because Protein2o is low calorie (60) and 15 grams of protein, it is a perfect match for all lifestyles.”