Q&A: Mdrive on helping driven men slow down the aging process
The Arizona-based company, billed as the first adaptogen-based men’s health company, launched its first product Mdrive Classic in 2009 – a blend of branded ingredients KSM-66 ashwagandha to improve testosterone production, Phytopin beta-sitosterols to support prostate function, AquaLOX Boswellia Serrata for joint health and function and Lutemax 2020 for eye health, focus and cognition.
Since then and citing high double-digit growth year-over-year during the last few years, Mdrive has expanded its portfolio to include a wide range of supplements for anti-aging, or as Kehoe calls it: “Men being men”.
NutraIngredients-USA caught up with his son, Mdrive President and CEO Michael Kehoe, who talked about the company’s continued retail expansion, staying attuned to consumer needs, the benefits of facing age head on, and what defines a Mdrive guy.
What sets Mdrive products apart from other supplements for men?
Michael Kehoe: In a toxic world where our competitors try to tell men why they aren’t good enough, sell products based on their insecurities, and make cancelling their subscriptions nearly impossible, we are different. We are in their corner, challenging them to be confident, bold and to lean into their age. That may be cliché, but it’s not some empty promise or hollow guarantee. We are the original men’s nutrition company, and we are proud of our legacy and bullish on our future. We’ve consistently delivered innovative, natural solutions, using the highest-quality ingredients at their clinical levels. Not every brand can say that. If a customer wants to talk, we pick up, no phone trees involved.
We also are honest enough to know that taking a supplement alone is not enough, that’s why we started The Driven – a supplement to our supplement: a blog, community, and newsletter to deliver actionable tips and motivation to help men live smarter and live healthier lives.
What should men know about supplementation as they age?
The concept of aging has developed a negative connotation, partially from the competitors we’ve mentioned above. We view aging as an advantage and a completely natural part of life. Starting in their 30s, men’s testosterone levels naturally start declining at around 1% per year.
Men in general don’t like to admit or address the problems that come with getting older, but the changes are real, and supplementation can bring balance to those hormonal and vitamin deficiencies.
What are the top health concerns, goals and trends informing your approach to formulation and product development for your target customer?
In our shift to digital, we’ve gained tremendous insight on who our customer is and how we can evolve to better serve them. Our online quiz, our surveys, and the hundreds of phone calls each week with customers provide the feedback we need to strategize product development and formulation changes.
Our office has a diverse group of people, many of which are actual “Mdrive guys” right in the demographic: 30+ years old who refuse to let age beat them. The Mdrive guy is ambitious, busy, and interested in taking control of his health. Trying to stay active, combat fatigue and weight gain, and rise above the excuses that aging inevitably brings.
Driven guys are smart enough to know that they should combine their hard work with supplements, but they are often too busy to do the research and constantly order the numerous ingredients necessary. We monitor the nutrition industry and are constantly testing the latest ingredients. We formulate (and reformulate) in house. Historically, the men’s supplement industry leaned into the basics: sex, fat loss, muscle growth. Those aren’t going away anytime soon, but we’ve been seeing a healthy shift into overall wellness, especially in brain, eye, prostate, and digestion support.
When did the company first move into bricks and mortar? How do DTC sales compare?
Our first retail partner was GNC in about 2010. We truly were one of the first adaptogen-based men’s health companies, so we brought something different to the market. Then we expanded into other specialty retailers like Vitamin Shoppe and Sprouts around 2015, and later forged a partnership with Rite Aid. To date, one of our most successful retailers is Costco, thanks to our strategic partnership with Weider Global Nutrition.
Our growth at Sprouts is a testament to our shared mission of making supplements easy. The success of our initial partnership is what led Sprouts to go from originally carrying just four SKUs to today carrying our full product lineup across all their stores in 23 states.
We carefully select our partnerships with retailers who align with our values and deliver industry-leading customer experience. We take the guesswork out of the overly complicated and often shady men’s supplement industry. Over the course of almost two decades, we learned that our formulations and our story, were best told by us. That’s why in 2018 we elevated the customer experience by shifting it to a digital one.
We couldn’t do what we do without our retail partners, but our customers deserve to have access to resources like our auto-ship program and awareness around new product launches as well as convenience of adding to their cart in Amazon. Our mix of DTC to brick and mortar is healthy and allows our customers to have access to Mdrive however they choose.
Who qualifies as an Mdrive ambassador? How do the ambassadors support the brand?
This is quite a funny topic, because the landscape has drastically shifted as to what an ambassador meant 20 years ago vs. today. Our initial Mdrive ambassadors were arguably the most driven men on earth, like Kurt Madden. Kurt was one of the first Ironmen, and THE first Ultraman winner (that’s 2x Ironman’s, 320 miles of multi-sport racing over three days.). Kurt is literally the guy David Goggins called when he decided to start training for his first Ultraman. Let’s just say Kurt doesn’t exactly have TikTok, but he has influence in the world of endurance sports, in fact he’s a legend in it.
As for the current state of Mdrive Ambassadors, whether it’s a guy like Chuck Patterson or major sports talk radio hosts, we carefully vet out who becomes an ambassador; and they have to actively take Mdrive and believe in our mission.
What is the Mdrive approach to personalized nutrition?
When Gary Kehoe initially launched Mdrive, we had just one product, Mdrive Classic, that he essentially invented for himself as he discovered the benefits of miraculous herbs and adaptogens. As new and innovative ingredients came to the market, combined with feedback from customers, he needed to formulate additional products to add to the line-up. With additional products, came confusion about which product is right for the customer. We developed and launched a simple eight question online quiz answering that question: “Which Mdrive Are You?” In a few minutes customers can now be guided on their journey to the right product or products for their specific goals.
The partnership with Sprouts was exciting because we incorporated QR code technology to guide the customer in store through a similar set of questions and ultimately choosing which product or products are right for them.
Do you have new products in development?
Being a leader and innovator in this category for almost 20 years, we’ve unfortunately learned that our competition is quietly watching and waiting. Over a million men have used Mdrive to combat aging. Every single day we are listening and formulating to deliver what they want next, let’s just say we are incredibly excited for the coming months!