Sports nutrition is a fast-growing industry. Today, the appeal of nutrition products is no longer limited to bodybuilders and professional athletes. Products such as energy gels and protein bars have attained a mass market appeal, drawing in the fitness and adventure enthusiasts of the social media generation. In 2015, sales of nutrition products were worth £66 million, while two in five (42%) UK consumers aged 16-24 have consumed sports nutrition products in the past three months.
TRIBE are one of the companies tapping into this increasingly health conscious and ethically minded lifestyle group. They sell a growing range of nutrition products and ally themselves with an active love of the great outdoors, fitness and adventure – organising a host of running and cycling events. The company has grown from humble beginnings, creating recipes in co-founder Rob Martineau’s mum’s kitchen, to now fuelling 60,000 workouts a month. In May, TRIBE raised £1 million in crowdfunding in just four days. We caught up with Rob to find out how they did it.
How would you sum up TRIBE in a sentence?
Can you briefly summarise the background to TRIBE and what you did before?
We were all working in the corporate world – Guy in finance, Tom in law and myself in Corporate Intelligence. Alongside our careers, we were brought together by our love for adventure, long distance running and cycling. After completing Marathon des Sables we were hungry to take on a bigger challenge.
In 2013 we took on a project called Run For Love – a 1,000 mile run across Eastern Europe. It was after this that we talked about building a crew of runners, putting on races and making the trail mixes and energy bars that we had fuelled our own adventures with. In the end, we decided to go for all three, with the goal of building a community of runners – our own TRIBE.
What was the inspiration behind TRIBE? Was there a lightbulb moment when it came to you?
It all came from our experience on Run for Love – we found that heavily refined sports nutrition products weren’t giving us what we needed as runners. We set out then to start making performance nutrition from natural ingredients.
What were the challenges around launching your products? Where did you find your time being spent?
We have a unique formulation for new product development. This is focused around three main phases; 1. Concept, 2. Development and 3. Community. We never release a bar until the TRIBE community have road-tested it fully and we don’t stop iterations until our community is 100% satisfied.
This does admittedly take a lot of time going through multiple recipe edits and production runs. But we are so focused on only delivering the best that we will never compromise.
How has TRIBE evolved since your launch? Have there been any particular milestones?
It’s been great seeing it grow and grow. The biggest milestones have probably been the first TRIBE Run Free festival and the launch of the Infinity Bar range.
You operate in a very competitive space, how do you mark yourself out from your competitors?
We are the only all natural performance sports nutrition brand on the market. Not only do we develop nutrition, but we have a community of athletes, and this is such an important part of our brand.
Nothing makes us more excited than thousands of journeys everyday being fuelled by our TRIBE products. We want to transform the way our customers purchase sports nutrition showing them how they can get all the energy and nutrition they need to train from natural whole foods.
Thinking about social media and marketing, what are your tips for boosting brand awareness and ultimately sales?
We have had huge marketing success out on the road both at our own TRIBE events and larger races. People get excited to see that our products are made from all natural whole foods and differ from any other sports nutrition on the market. The opportunity at events to get out and meet new people, speak about the brand and share our love for adventure has also played a huge part in our success thus far. We also have a very engaged community and we have a huge social media reach. This has most certainly helped us grow at the rate that we have.
What are the challenges on a personal level running a business?
We are constantly learning new things and having to become experts in them overnight – whether this is finding packaging suppliers, developing new nutrition products, digital marketing or sourcing the highest quality ingredients. Everything at the start is new, which is exciting but hugely challenging.
What are your proudest achievements?
The first TRIBE Bar!
What is your top tip for someone looking to launch a business?
Stick to your guns. There are always so many pulls to do things another way or compromise. In food, this often happens with starting to use ingredients that go against what you stand for. It’s so important to retain your principles, even if everyone is telling you there’s no other way.