“We’ve seen countless changes in the sports nutrition category since we first started,” Russell Saks, president and CEO of Campus Protein told us. “For example, when we started you didn’t really see [ready-to-drink] protein, but now they’re all over.”
“We actually started a technology to notice these spikes in popularity, and part of what we hope to do with our latest fundraising round is to continue and be a leader in collecting data” in the space, he added.
Saks co-founded the company back in 2010 together with his college friends Tarun Singh (who now serves as the company’s chief marketing officer) and Michael Yewdell (the company’s chief sales officer).
“We were always really entrepreneurial, and in our fraternity we had a lot of brothers who liked to work-out, and they’ll go to GNC once a month to buy supplements,” Saks recalled. For college students though, GNC’s prices were quite out of range, he added.
So the friends wanted to fill a void between bricks-and-mortar stores and online shopping. Physical retail stores allow shoppers to build rapport with a rep and shop from a selected range of products, but there’s the issue of schlepping products around and buying it at a premium price.
On the other hand, shoppers can conveniently find a plethora of products online at multiple price ranges, but the sheer amount of products can be overwhelming, many of which may be shady, and the platform also lacks the personal feel of speaking with a knowledgeable rep.
The white space Campus Protein wants to fill
Campus Protein works with a small number of manufacturers. “So on other platforms you’ll see 15 pages of protein to scroll through, on our site it’s just one page of the absolutely best products,” Saks said.
Brand examples include BSN, Cellucor, Optimum Nutrition, MusclePharm, and Nature’s Best. Because there are only a few partner brands, this allows Campus Protein to build close relationships with their partners and pass on more savings to the site’s shoppers.
To replicate the personal touch of speaking with a store sales associate, Campus Protein uses a Campus Rep program. It has around 1,500 reps in 300 campuses across the US. They get a couple hundred applications for these positions every month, and dedicate an entire full-time team on recruiting and educating these reps.
These reps have the responsibility of marketing and selling products sold on Campus Protein on their college campus. “These people are most likely your peers, and they live an active lifestyle” and therefore are users of these products themselves, Saks said. This isn’t always the case for sales representatives at supplement stores.
“Reps can move-up in the company, so compensation starts as commissions but they can earn more,” Saks explained.
Because of the company’s hyperfocused efforts on the college population, Saks and his colleagues believe they have found the sweet spot to play against supplement ecommerce heavyweights like GNC, Bodybuilding.com, and even Amazon.
"Campus Protein realized very early on that college students are an underserved market," Saks said.
"In addition to low prices and rapid order fulfillment, students want information and advice—and they want it from someone they trust and understand. Our community of 1,500 trained campus representatives, combined with our selection of products curated specifically for the needs of young adults, gives us a sizable market advantage."
Interested in Sports Nutrition?
The inaugural NutraIngredients-USA Sports Nutrition Summit, in association with the International Society of Sports Nutrition, will bring together leading scientists, brands and retailers, market analysts, and innovators in a unique, market-leading face-to-face event.
The key themes of this event include:
- The “size of the prize”
- The power and importance of social media
- Positioning and differentiation
- Sports nutrition and the military - product use survey data and enhancing the performance of Warfighters
- The State of the Science: Sports, fitness and exercise Nutrition
- Sports Nutrition products and Elite Athletes
- Alphabet soup: Everything brands need to know about GMPs, NDIs, AERs, DASCA, SARMs…
- Third party certification: What brands need to know
- Bacterial boosts – The microbiome and sports
- Personalization and the digital revolution
- Nootropics & sports nutrition