Into the wild: Shining a spotlight on the outdoor sport supplement void

By Danielle Masterson

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images
Getty Images

Related tags extreme sports outdoor athlete performance nutrition

NutraIngredients-USA sat down with one of the co-founders of TruWild, an outdoor supplement brand that got off to a wild start.

“Most people these days are so trapped in a plastic box. We wear clothes and shoes, and never actually touch the ground, which is crazy.”

That’s the sentiment of Nate Cox, the co-founder of TruWild, a supplement brand for outdoor athletes.

Cox, one of the brainchilds of TruWild, is also VP of business development at Lief Labs, a full-service contract manufacturer. Armed with just $10,000, his background, and desire to fill the whitespace in the outdoor supplement space, Cox and co-founder Zac Curhan developed the brand by taking a grassroots approach. 

In search of something better 

Nathan Cox, TruWild

Cox told NutraIngredients-USA​ that he used to take high-stimulant-based pre-workout drinks for both the gym and outdoor sports, but they left him feeling fatigued, dehydrated, and unfocused. 

“I would always take pre-workouts because I was so used to taking them whenever I did something physical. I noticed when I was taking products that were mainly meant for a gym, my performance levels would go down. When I met the other TruWild co-founder Zac, a fellow surfer, climber, an outdoor enthusiast, we sat down and discussed trying other natural products that might help you perform better at outdoor activities.” 

Moving mountains 

Cox and Curhan noticed that the locals relied heavily on nature to help increase their performance. With that in mind, TruWild's ingredients come from around the world, inspired by their exotic travels to places like Tanzania and Patagonia.

Cox harkened back to the time he traveled to Peru to climb Machu Picchu.

“When you climb, they have a lot of natural herbs that all these sherpas take and they give them to you along the trail.”​ That trip inspired their first performance product, Motion. 

The duo also climbed mount Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, where they furthered their research by speaking to the locals and incorporating those native ingredients into their products. 

“They have a very specific diet. So we worked together to come up with a formulation and tested it on ourselves by doing different hiking, climbing and  surfing events.”

Once they settled on a formulation for Motion​, Cox and Curhan came to realize that marketing to outdoor athletes is an uphill battle. 

TruWild on Instagram

“With this outdoor community, a lot of them are such purists. When we tell them about supplements, they’re immediately turned off. But they eat mushrooms, they drink coffee, they drink tea, they consume coconut water. So they’re actually taking all these things, but there’s this negative stigma of ‘muscle meat heads.’ So we kinda formed this whole food, vegan, gluten-free type of brand where those marketing pieces spoke to them.”

When TruWild first launched in late 2017, the marketing efforts were very broad. Cox said they positioned themselves as an extreme outdoor supplement company, geared more toward men. But sometimes the response can be as unpredictable as nature. 

Strike a pose 

“Our biggest micro-influencers, who weren’t even our initial target audience, were a bunch of yogi flight attendants. They would fly to all these different locations and they would hand the product to the other flight attendants,”​ recalled Cox, who said their online influencers were not paid. “And suddenly, we had about 10 flight attendants that had a pretty big following, that were yoga enthusiasts and our products were being shown all over the world.”

And with the help of the yogi flight attendants, TruWild has amassed over 8,000 Instagram followers and experienced 250% growth since launch. Cox told us that the extreme sport supplement company now has more female customers than males. 

Product lineup 

TruWild​ is up to six products now. Following the release of Motion​, their performance product that boasts two flavors, the outdoor nutrition brand also sells: Turmeric​ to reduce inflammation and help with recovery; Adaptogens​, an ashwagandha blend for mood support and energy; Hydrate​, a rehydration formula infused with juice, minerals and electrolytes; and their best seller, Wild Greens​, a USDA Organic Greens Superfood blend made with antioxidants and micronutrients. Baselayer​ Antioxidant and immune support is slated to launch the first week of February. 

“This is a very small start up, I don’t think very many businesses with $10k survive over two years, so I’m pretty surprised we did what we did, and it’s mainly from people being positive and pushing the product for us.” 

Sports Nutrition Summit

Influencers, the microbiome, protein, formulation challenges and opportunities, and female athletic consumers are just some of the topics that will take center stage at the NutraIngredients-USA Sports Nutrition Summit​ in San Diego, Feb 3-5, 2020. 

For more information and to register, please click HERE​.

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