Industry-giant MuscleTech turned 21 recently, but in supplement-business years, that can feel more like 80. With startups emerging every year trying to be the next, well, MuscleTech, this mighty company has earned a place as the standard bearer in quality, innovation, volume, and global reach.
The eight-time Bodybuilding.com Supplement Awards winner started as a modest mail-order business in 1995, but three of its products, Nitro-Tech, Cell-Tech, and Hydroxycut, quickly became trailblazers in their respective categories. One of the first supplement companies to invest in serious research to back its products, MuscleTech has expanded its range to over 140 global markets, most recently in China.
I spoke with Chief Marketing Officer Brian Cavanaugh about what made MuscleTech so successful so fast, its commitment to expanding research, and how the future looks in the coming years.
Two decades ago, the supplement industry was dominated by a few very large companies. How did MuscleTech get its foot in the door?
MuscleTech was founded 21 years ago in what was, even then, a fast-growing industry. There were a variety of supplement companies touting the next great product breakthrough based on published studies, but not always formulating and dosing ingredients according to those studies. MuscleTech broke the mold by being the first company to start sourcing studies and dosing according to the true research.
Of course, we grew because we effectively marketed our products and built up our brand equity by delivering breakthrough, category-leading innovations, which brought significant demand for our products. At that time, the company evolved from a mail-order business to national distribution at top brick-and-mortar retailers and into today’s online business model. In very short order, this forced the business to evolve from startup mode, to growth mode, and eventually turn into the sophisticated, well-structured, consumer-products company that we are today.
And now, we are a scale business that is laser-focused on bringing best-in-class sports nutrition and weight-management supplements to people around the world, helping them achieve new heights, improve performance, and enhance their lifestyles. Our company continues to grow at a strong rate today, and we are excited about many opportunities we see in the coming years.
The company didn’t take long to become an industry leader. How difficult is it to maintain market leadership?
Twenty-one years ago, the company mantra was “Supplements That Work.” Today, we focus everything we do on delivering “Superior Science for Superior Results.” Either way, our core values have not changed over the last two decades. Our mentality continues to be focused on using leading science to give consumers the best possible supplements available anywhere.
Just about every manufacturer touts “science” and “research” in their marketing. How is yours different?
Being an industry leader means staying on the cutting edge of innovation, whether it’s through new ingredients, formulas, product formats, or new scientific studies. We always strive to be first-to-market with new innovations that deliver results. Specifically, we maintain an unwavering commitment to multimillion-dollar R&D initiatives that enable us to continually scour the market for new science, partner with researchers at leading universities and institutions around the world, and ultimately commercialize winning concepts that enable consumers to experience performance products that truly impact greater fitness results.
It’s one thing to develop products that are full of catchy ingredient names or emerging compounds that give an illusion of an effective product, but with MuscleTech and Hydroxycut, we focus on engineering products with key ingredients supported by sound, science-based results in efficacious doses that deliver real results. We have the most passionate scientists, formulators, and product developers I have ever known in my career, and that makes our jobs a lot of fun.
The company recently made a commitment to one of the top Canadian universities, the University of Toronto, backing the MuscleTech Metabolism and Sport Science Lab. Tell us about it.
Partnering with a world-leading sports-research university exemplifies MuscleTech’s commitment to providing sports-nutrition products that are backed by leading-edge science. In fact, this 20-year partnership is unprecedented in the industry and is a true testament to the lifelong commitment our leadership team has made to improving the quality and efficacy of athletic performance supplements.
This partnership with the University of Toronto will further develop the industry’s understanding of the mechanisms behind sports-nutrition ingredients and inspire MuscleTech researchers to engineer the most-effective supplements to help users reach their fitness goals faster. Based on all of this, it may not surprise you to know that our domestic and international partners are showing strong interest to collaborate on new product development and science projects.
They want to be a part of our leadership position in the industry and work together to bring unique, innovative, proven product concepts to market. We launched a significant amount of new innovation over the past 18 months, but I can tell you that our innovation pipeline is loaded with a number of exciting new products we intend to bring to market in 2017 and 2018.
Give us an example of how MuscleTech used this kind of research.
Being an industry leader means being able to do what’s best for the consumer, while also helping the supplement industry to grow, thrive, and deliver product offerings that support greater individual lifestyle and performance results. For example, decades ago, the marketplace was full of whey protein powders.
MuscleTech researchers partnered with leading scientists at a third-party sports-performance lab and discovered that by combining whey protein with a precise dose of creatine, you’d get better results than with whey protein or creatine alone. This was pioneering research that changed the face of the industry and continues to positively impact the regimens of countless consumers including serious athletes, weekend warriors, and lifestyle consumers.
We’re committed not only to industry-leading research and development, but also to covering our discoveries with numerous patents, which helps legitimize our product and brand offerings, and ultimately protect the consumer. We see that as a complete win-win.
I’ve taken a tour of your headquarters outside of Toronto, and I just about fell over. You’ve got everything a serious lifter could dream of!
In 2008, we moved into our new global headquarters, a 131,000-square-foot facility with a 7,000-square-foot gym that includes the latest Hammer-Strength equipment, powerlifting stations, and dumbbells up to 250 pounds. There’s also an adjoining yoga studio and two laboratory-testing rooms that include a Bod Pod machine and V02-max machine. This is a fully equipped facility that allows our employees and guests to enjoy world-class workout facilities any time they want to.
When our athletes come for photo shoots, they’re treated to a state-of-the-art production studio that includes a photo lab, audio booth, green room, and makeup studio. Meanwhile, all team members have access to a cafeteria staffed with full-time cooks that help make it easy to eat clean, get lean, and maintain healthy nutrition intake.
The building also features multiple other labs where MuscleTech researchers use state-of-the-art equipment to mix, sample, and experiment with some of the latest ingredients. In fact, our extended R&D team includes researchers in the areas of human biology, biochemistry, and toxicology, a group that has included a number of published authors and doctors over our 21-year history. It’s a fantastic environment to work in and makes coming to work every day a lot of fun.
What MuscleTech products are the best-sellers on Bodybuilding.com?
Bodybuilding.com consumers are highly educated; they take the time to look into ingredients and products, unlike many other buyers. I believe that’s one reason why our products have proven so successful on your site. Our brands have the benefit of more than two decades of leading product development, marketing, and branding.
Consumers know MuscleTech and have come to expect the high caliber brand experience we’ve been able to demonstrate, and we expect to continue to get better moving forward.
Before we close, I’d like to ask you what your company means when it says its products are fully disclosed.
Quite simply, it means you know exactly what you’re consuming whenever you take any of our products. Our Supplement Facts panel is fully disclosed, which means that no matter what the product is, you can see exactly what ingredients are in it and exactly how much of that ingredient is in each serving. That’s very important.
At MuscleTech, we don’t believe in hiding behind proprietary blends just to make label claims. Instead, our key ingredients are scientifically researched and in proper dosages for better results!