Austin, Texas-based NuSkool Snacks, part of the inaugural cohort of Mondelēz’s CoLab program alongside eight other CPG startups, has officially onboarded Tim Tebow as its Chief Mission Officer after receiving significant investment from the sports icon and ESPN broadcaster. The amount raised was not disclosed.
Cofounder and CEO Joe Christensen, who originally created a suite of function-enhanced nutrition bars boosted with collagen, plant-based proteins, prebiotic fiber, and MCT oil to combat rising tides of diabetes and other health issues among his family, describes the partnership as “organic and a perfect fit” since Tebow aligns with NuSkool Snacks in its low-sugar mission and will help elevate the brand to a new level.
During an exclusive interview recently, Christensen told me how NuSkool Snacks were initially sampled to a leading entertainment, sports and fashion agency William Morris Endeavor and its venture team through FirstLook, a company that connects early-stage CPG founders and potential investors. “The next thing I know was I was sitting on a half-hour zoom call with [Tim] that turned into an hour and half, and we really just nerd out on the brand,” he said.
Tebow noted in a public statement how he immediately fell in love with NuSkool Snacks the moment he tasted them, saying: “They are perfect for anyone who is looking to incorporate low-sugar snack options into their diet. I am excited to officially join Joe and the NuSkool Snacks team and work side-by-side with them to bring healthy and clean eating options to everyone.”
Representing NuSkool Snacks by leveraging Tebow’s large fan base is only the first step during his involvement, according to Christensen, and Tebow will also be heavily involved in helping lay the company’s ground work by engaging directly with retailers, as well as creating collaborative marketing plans, which are expected to drive significant sales for the company later in 2022 and beyond.
NuSkool Snacks has garnered a roster of reputable entrepreneurs and investors from the CPG space since its launch, including founding brothers of Super Coffee, Jim, Jake and Jordan DeCicco; Hayden Fulstone, who helped cofound and sold Liquid I.V. to Unilever in 2020; and Jackie Fast, Managing Partner of Sandbox Studios.
Fast, who has joined NuSkool Snacks as a board member and advisor upon her investment, said: “The future of marketing lies in value-add partnerships with the right talents, celebrities, and influencers, who can create impactful connections with the consumer. As a trailblazer for this unique asset class, Sandbox Studios is proud to fuel the growth of NuSkool Snacks, undoubtedly a rising star in the wellness-focused snacking category, through our exciting partnership with Mr. Tebow.”
Finding Niche In The Crowded Bars Category
As a personal trainer and clinical nutritionist, Christensen pointed out how the general appetite for low-sugar products is growing, yet many snacks on the market touting sugar-free or reduced sugar as a healthy alternative still use less-than-clean ingredients such as sugar alcohols, which can be harmful to people with digestive conditions. Additionally, the crowded nutrition bars category is also “over segmented,” he explained, meaning existing vegan bars are not necessarily keto or those high in protein could still be loaded with sugar.
“The next phase of the category is consolidation of these segments to ease the decision making process for the consumer and that’s where we feel the most uniquely positioned with all natural ingredients and just the exact amount and type of proteins that the consumer needs right now,” Christensen said, stressing how NuSkool’s products are sweetened with pure monk fruit and small doses of Allulose.
NuSkool Snacks’ latest Krunch Bar line that comes in chocolate peanut butter and French toast flavors also deliver a similar nutrition profile with more texture and better heat resistance compared to the company’s core MCT collagen bars. Christensen said these new products, which have been years in the making, are plant-based, all natural, and low-sugar at the same time, and will become an important part of NuSkool’s business in the future with additional flavors rolling out soon.
Retail Sales & Volume Back To Pre-COVID Level
NuSkool Snacks has experienced increasing velocities across all key retail accounts so far, including H-E-B and Sprouts and will mainly focus on expanding in this channel moving forward as sales and volume have bounced back to the pre-COVID level, according to Christensen.
The goal is to secure listings across more than 2,000 retailers by year end and approximately 5,000 stores by 2023, growing at 35% year-over-year in sales on average. “During COVID, we had to skew heavily towards e-commerce — about 70% [of revenue came from] e-commerce, and 30% from retail,” he said. “We’re digitally native in the sense of brand awareness and driving trial, but ultimately, the strategy is tailored towards driving velocity at core retail partners. We’ve successfully flipped it back to 70% retail and 30% e-commerce.”
On the macro level, major retailers have also switched from reducing SKUs to focus on top performers within certain categories to allowing more truly innovative brands to their shelf space, added Christensen.
“There was too much consolidation, and there wasn’t too much of an opportunity for brands that like us to have really filled that gap,” he said. “The next wave here is filling those pockets with true innovation within categories that will be also accredited to the top-line revenue for these retailers as a whole.”