After James Rouse, a local naturopathic doctor and TV personality, developed a powdered blend of 41 nutrients and superfoods, friends Greg Stroh and Alex Bogusky became quick fans of the supplement.
"We said, ‘We’ve got to make a bunch of this so we never run out personally,’" said Bogusky, a former partner with advertising agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky who became active in the local business community since moving to Boulder in 2006.
The friends lauded how they felt after a morning ritual of mixing the powder with beverages and foods and decided to start sharing the product with others. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and people asked where they could buy the powder.
"We never went into this intentionally to create a business," Rouse said. " … The business sort of came as an afterthought."
Seeing the demand, Stroh and Rouse — who partnered together on protein shake company mix1 — teamed with Rob Schuham, Bogusky and his wife, Ana, to develop Skoop LLC, a maker of powdered superfoods.
Skoop’s first product, A Game, is the powder developed by Rouse. The company, which officially launched two months ago, plans to develop complementary “B” blends of boosts targeting specific areas such as sleep, energy and immunity.
Skoop, however, is intentionally unconventional.
Desiring a company and product with the highest possible amount of transparency, the Skoop bag is laden with infographics about the ingredients and their effects.
"What people put on the back we put on the front, and then we put it on the back in more detail," Bogusky said.
Additionally, Skoop’s route to market is a hybrid of selling to some select retailers and multi-level marketing — where
Packages of Skoop’s A Game product as seen at the company’s office in Boulder. (JEREMY PAPASSO)
a network of individuals serve as independent distributors and sell the product. Skoop’s distributors will receive a replicated Skoop website and will not have to maintain inventory, Stroh said, adding all product would be shipped from the company’s Boulder warehouse.
By buying through those distributors, consumers would receive a discount on the product that costs $65 for a 30-serving bag. Those distributors, in turn, would receive a commission for the sale.
To-date, Skoop has signed on about 50 distributors that include “influencers” such as personal trainers, nutritionists and “alpha moms,” Stroh said.
Overall supplement sales and supplement sales within the multi-level marketing segment experienced growth in 2012, said Carlotta Mast, senior director of content and insights for New Hope Natural Media.
Citing Nutrition Business Journal data, Mast said U.S. consumer sales of supplements grew 7.5 percent to $32.5 billion in 2012. Supplements sold through the MLM segment grew at a faster rate of 9.5 percent to $5.3 billion, she said.
Superfoods also are faring well, she said.
"These are widespread trends in terms of people moving toward wanting cleaner, safer, more transparent nutrition as well as convenient nutrition is more important than ever," Mast said.
The multi-level marketing route to market is a “slower build … but more controllable,” Stroh said.
"One of the biggest issues (with retail) is you get your product into a larger chain and you have to jump through a lot of hoops to get there and you’re at the mercy of when the retailer wants you in the store," Stroh said. "It’s a lot of hurry up and wait, and when you get in, you need to get the product off the shelves.
" … It’s getting more and more competitive and very expensive to do that whole process."
Stroh, who co-founded sparkling drink maker Izze Beverage Co. prior to starting mix1, said he is applying lessons learned from his past experiences. Both Izze and mix1 took in venture capital and eventually were acquired by Pepsi and Hershey, respectively.
Pepsi still maintains the Izze brand, but mix1 no longer is on the shelves. The company dissolved earlier this year.
Stroh, who had stepped away from the firm at that time, said it was his understanding that ongoing production and packaging woes eventually took their toll.
"Mix1 was an outstanding product, but not consistent with the yield of production," he said. "It wasn’t a good business model. When it went well, the product did well at retail. But when production didn’t go well, people didn’t see that side of it."
Skoop recently landed its first round of investment capital, but providing the $1.1 million were a group of angel investors.
"We really, truly are hoping to build a company that can get cash-flow positive and be a stand-alone company … just create a relevant company that can stand on its own," Stroh said. "It’s not financed for a sale, because that just puts so much pressure on the company. It really changes the environment."
Maintaining the passion behind the brand is critical as the company founders’ over-arching goals involve creating jobs and bettering the health of people across the country, Bogusky said.
The intention of Skoop is to not preach or lecture about health, but provide an easy and quick way for people to get essential nutrients, he said.
"In America today, we don’t have a ton of time," he said. "We want to eat healthy. We need really easy on-ramps to do that."