WEEK 143: Connecting the dots


March 20, 2015

We're a couple months away from hitting the three-year mark since opening our doors, and although we've made lots of progress since we've started, we feel hungrier than ever to make progress and fulfill the vision we set out with for Citadel Nutrition. Here's an update of what we've been up to, and what we have coming up.

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The past couple months we've been pretty focused on building a training ground for the Georgia Tech Powerlifting Team and Barbell Club. From looking for an ideal location near campus, renovating the space, to picking out the equipment, it's been a pretty intensive process.

Some pictures:

  

 

 

[We still have a good bit of equipment coming in (platforms, racks, barbells, weights, pulleys, etc.) and hope to get the majority of the gym finished in the next two or three months.]

One of the most common questions we get asked regarding the gym is "What's in it for you, how will this help sales, and what does this even have to do with supplements?" The straight answer is.....we don't exactly know.

The old Barbell Club Gym at Georgia Tech used to be an institution, a membership-only gym with a raw atmosphere that welcomed the use of chalk and you could always hear the clang of iron. When they tore it down in 2005 in order to make way for additional locker room space for the Volleyball Team - it was a sad day for students and faculty alike. Fast forward almost ten years and we get an email from Obi, the president of the newly resurgent GT Barbell Club introducing himself and his vision for the club. 

Here is an excerpt:

 

With a mission statement like that....we were on board. Many discussions later, we started floating the idea of bringing back a dedicated training ground for the club. We aren't some huge conglomerate with money to burn on projects of whimsy (i.e. Bruce Wayne) and we're a business where every single dollar matters, but there was a clear sense of purpose and community that we couldn't shake. No revenue projections, no clear strategy to recoup the heavy investment, no "synergy" models for us to implement, but our gut instincts told us this was the right thing to do.

As a company we have a strong belief in two concepts:

1. Connecting the Dots. Steve Jobs often tells the story of how dropping out of college allowed him to drop in on classes that actually interested him, specifically calligraphy. At the time, learning about fonts and typefaces seemed to have no hope of practical application in his life, but it turned out to be instrumental towards the development of the Macintosh 10+ years later. 

We believe you can't connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards, and there are times when you have to trust in your instincts when confronted with uncertainty or imperfect information. We're not going pretend that sports supplements has the same significance as the invention of the first Macintosh, but the concept remains the same. We came to a similar crossroads when deciding whether to start Citadel Nutrition and this approach has never let us down. We feel that creating a community and positively impacting people that love training can only lead to good things.

2. Long term over the short term. Building and creating a brand is a long-term play. Brands are long-term assets, and much if not all of a brand's value resides in the future. When talking about this I think about how North Face was started in a garage by two guys surrounded by rock climbers, or how Lululemon's inception was fueled by their shared retail space with a yoga studio. None of these companies succeeded right away or even for a very long time, but the groundwork for the future was laid brick by brick through a shared love and passion for what they were doing.

 

 

Products on the Horizon

Protein. We are still working on our whey protein product, and our goal is to release it this year. It has been almost three years since we first started our research, and we're getting close to the finish line. Three years? Isn't a protein just a protein?

The challenge with this product was not just determining the profile and characteristics, but the endless details within the manufacturing process that impact quality. It is of major importance to us that what is on the label matches what is in the bottle, especially in light of all the protein content/quality issues on the market.

We plan to share the process from beginning to end in a separate blog post series, but some considerations in the development of this product were:
  • The raw ingredient and whey sourcing process. Making protein powder is a multi-step process. From the dairy farm, to the cheese manufacturer, to how the whey is transported to the processing plant where it is pasteurized, filtered, and refined, to how it is instantized and then packed and filled. Lots of steps. 
  • Minimum Order Quantities. Manufacturers that specialize in making protein (not smaller run by night companies) often have high MOQs - generally 5,000 units. Let's say each 5lb tub has a raw cost of 45USD - at the stated MOQ the overall cost to bring the product to market is $225k - a sizeable investment. This is another reason we want to make sure we are completely satisfied with each and every one of our manufacturing partners for every single step in the process.
  • Ironing down specific characteristics and the purported functional benefits behind each of them. For example:
isolate vs. concentrate
macro profile, BCAA content, mixability, taste
lactose content, rBGH free, grass fed cows
sweeteners, soy lecithin vs. natural sunflower lecithin
filtration method - CFM, microfiltered, cold filtration, ion exchange, etc.
(A picture from late 2012 when we first started researching a protein and the different prototypes we started out with....we weren't happy with any of them.)
   

Daily Performance. Our plan with the Daily Performance was for it to contain Creatine and Beta-alanine as its base profile, since both are taken continuously and use a cumulative effect mechanism of action. We spent a considerable amount of time looking into other ingredients to be included in this product (beet root, glycerol, CitMal, Agmatine, etc.) but the body of research just wasn't there for us to be completely satisfied. Another potential fork in the road is to release a stand-alone Creatine product, which we're considering.

BCAA. Probably the most heavily debated product here at Citadel Nutrition. There aren't any product-related roadblocks  and we could nail the taste and mixability (tough with BCAAs) based on early prototypes, but the challenge is if we want to include a BCAA in our product lineup. Our goal is for our product range to be as fundamental as possible (i.e. no test boosters) and the jury is still out on what to do with this one.
 


Moving Forward

In addition to the stuff above, we plan to release a YouTube channel this year and completely revamp our website. A YouTube channel is something we've wanted to do for some time, and now we have the equipment and resources to make it a reality. The goal is to put out consistently interesting, useful, and informative content.

For the website, there isn't anything wrong with it per se, but in the spirit of continuous improvement we want to make the checkout process as seamless as possible, as well as providing a cleaner interface for informational content and blog posts. We're working with the developer as we speak and plan to release the new site near the end of the year.
Thank you for your support.