For Ancient Nutrition co-founders, Jordan Rubin and Dr. Josh Axe, hiring Shearson as CEO to direct the business strategy of the company will leave them to pursue their core passions within product development and go-to-market strategy.
"I’ve heard it once that the true hallmark of a leader is to find people that are better suited, more experienced, and more talented than you are in a certain area," Rubin told NutraIngredients-USA.
The ideal CEO of Ancient Nutrition, according to Rubin, had to be someone who embraced Ancient Nutrition's ethos of restoring the health, strength, and vitality of the modern consumer through products featuring whole food nutrients based in modern and ancient nutrition science. A proven track record of growing a business in a sustainable way prioritizing the company culture was also a must, he added.
"We took the right amount of time to find the ideal leader for this company and we found that in Greg."
Shearson has been an investor of Ancient Nutrition through a partnership with VMG Partners, and prior to joining Ancient Nutrition served as a CEO for the past
30 years. Most recently he was the CEO of Merrick Natural Pet Care where he grew the founder-based business almost tenfold. After the business sold to Nestle in 2015 he continued to lead the brand.
Growth so far
"I’ve said many times, my organization has struggled to lay down track as fast as the train is going," Rubin said.
Ancient Nutrition is the No. 2 brand in the protein powder and supplement category within the natural channel registering double digit growth (SPINscan Natural, 52 weeks ending 12/2/18). The company's multi collagen protein is also the #2 item in the category growing triple digits (SPINscan Natural, 12 weeks ending 12/2/18).
From an investment standpoint, Ancient Nutrition has raised millions from private equity firms including VMG Partners, Hillhouse Capital, ICONIQ Capital, and more than 100 members of a co-investor network. In March 2018, Ancient Nutrition raised $103m in a minority strategic investment.
Speaking to NutraIngredients-USA, Jonathan Marshall, VP at VMG Partners, explained that its investment in Ancient Nutrition aligned with the equity firm's track record of investing in high-growth companies.
"Other than high interest at the shelf, high repeat consumption dynamics, and really category leadership. What’s different here is having two truly visionary founders through Jordan and Josh. If you look out there for any authority on both of those categories [nurition and health], you’re going to run across at the top of that list both Jordan and Josh," said Marshall.
Dr Axe is a doctor of natural medicine, doctor of chiropractic, and clinical nutritionist, and author of best-selling health book, Eat Dirt, as well as creator of the health website, www.DrAxe.com.
Rubin, a New York Times best-selling author of The Maker’s Diet and 25 additional titles, founded the whole food natural supplement company, Garden of Life, and Beyond Organic, a vertically integrated organic food and beverage company.
Taking Ancient Nutrition to the next level
With strong growth under its belt, Shearson believes Ancient Nutrition is just getting started with much more opportunities outside of its current markets, channels, and product categories.
"I would define it as a great start but with tremendous opportunity to grow in all the places that we already play, as well as turning to Jordan loose to go after all the things that we want to get to as well," Shearson told us.
Those target growth areas include winning more market share, driving penetration, and talking to more consumers outside of the US market.
While not getting too specific about the types of products consumers can expect from Ancient Nutrition and the markets it would enter next, Shearson did say that it would be expanding its current product lines around keto, collagen, and probiotics, as well as entering new categories.
"We’re going to after places where we think we have the right to not just exist but to succeed and push towards leadership positions," Shearson said.
With Shearson as CEO, Rubin added that he would be to continue to innovate and explore the use of new ingredients in its products.
"I’m going to be doing what I’ve been doing but just with a greater level of focus and concentration. Every country and every market dictates different products and ingredients, and to spend more time on the sourcing and research and development is something I’m very excited about," said Rubin.
Rubin explained that Ancient Nutrition's approach to product development has been identifying the middle ground between the co-founders' in-depth knowledge of nutrition in areas such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, and meeting the needs of the current consumer market.
"Our brand is not just a nice name, it guides everything that we do. In order for an ingredient to become the foundation of a product, it needs to be compelling both with ancient history and modern science...and we have an ideation pipeline a mile long."