The sports nutrition industry was saddened by the news that food manufacturer Samworth Brothers opted to axe the business after six years of ownership and investments led to poor profits.
Nick Morgan, founder and director of the sports nutrition consultancy Sports Integrated, says it’s a story of note as nearly all brands in this space make similar investments as they look to modernise and grow with the market by appealing to the broadening spectrum of health conscious consumers.
In fact, despite Sci-MX doing everything ‘by the book’, Morgan does not find this a surprising turn of events.
“Unfortunately what has happened to Sci-MX is the epitome of the narrative that the market has played to itself – sports nutrition going mainstream.
“Their execution was on point and they absolutely followed the blueprint that so many other companies are following; broadening their offering, moving into convenience and mainstream channels, making branding more inclusive and gender neutral, launching vegan products.
"But how far can a 14-year-old legacy sports nutrition brand stretch itself for the mainstream market?”
Samworth Brothers purchased the brand in 2015 with the plan to utilise its mainstream knowledge and connections to bring the brand to the increasingly health conscious mainstream market.
The company started by launching a range of 'EatFit' branded calorie controlled ready meals with more than 30g of protein per portion, targeting health-conscious but time-poor consumers.
Shortly after, it invested further by launching 'Pro2go' branded snacks for the everyday active consumer. The range tapped into all the biggest health trends: gooey low sugar bars, for those wanting healthy indulgence; 50g protein flapjacks for a filling snack with extra protein; raw bars for consumers looking for plant-based and 'natural' products; and light protein crisps for low calorie savoury snackers.
While the idea of having the core sports nutrition products alongside more inclusive Pro2Go products and EatFit chilled meals might have seemed like the perfect way to provide high quality, healthy products to all shoppers and all occasions, making that work in practice would have been a huge challenge.
“It’s really hard for a legacy brand to open its horizons in such a big way," Morgan explains. "It requires a huge amount of investment and then continued investment to continue to communicate and market those products to the specific channels.
“The brands that are being really successful at the moment are those that are focused, such as Grenade with healthy snacking, or Huel with nutritionally complete meal replacements.
“When you try to cover all areas it can be very confusing for consumers. In fact, these days, no-one really knows what sports nutrition is because it is trying to encompass everything that it isn’t.”
Morgan points out he is by no means trying to imply the sports nutrition industry is in a bad place, only that many brands have found themselves in a high risk or high reward situation.
“I’ve been saying for several years now that this is a new generation of sports nutrition consumers and it’s a huge challenge for a brand to appeal across such a broad market, crossing multiple demographics, ethos and interests.
“I think Sci-MX did everything by the book and that’s a harrowing message for others in this category.”
In a recent statement, Samworth Brothers said: “Despite strong levels of investment and a highly committed team, the business has been loss making for several years. We are doing everything we can to support Sci-Mx colleagues find suitable alternative roles, including offering opportunities for redeployment to other Samworth Brothers business locations. It is never an easy decision to close a business.
"However, the sports nutrition sector has changed dramatically over the last few years. We have concluded that the business is not at a scale where we can make it work and the levels of investment that would be needed to achieve this do not make good economic sense.”
Supreme Imports, a European supplier, manufacturer and distributor of wholesale batteries, lighting, vaping, sports nutrition and household products, has purchased £1.3m worth of Sci-Mx and Pro2Go stock as well as the ability to use the brand name in the future.