Unwilling to let women suffer in silence any longer – and seeing an unmet market demand – startup Levelle Nutrition earlier this year launched a line of energy purees specifically formulated and marketed to power and empower female athletes.
“Products that are on the market are really made based on men’s physiology. And so, while they are great for male athletes, in women they cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle cramps – all throughout the course of training and competition,” company co-founder and CEO Linda Alvarez told FoodNavigator-USA at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City late last month.
Not only that, she added, but all of the more than 100 female athletes she and her co-founder interviewed before launching their company thought “it was her body that was the problem, rather than the products on the market.”
To offer women better outcomes, the duo created Levelle Nutrition to “to really empower female athletes with fuel formulated for her physiology. So, what we really do is we knock out all of the high-glycemic sugars and additives – anything really engineered – so that we are just getting real food nutrition,” Alvarez said.
The company’s first products are two shelf stable energy purees – Yes We Cran and Strawberry Jams – which are made from low and moderate glycemic index plant ingredients that are organic and free from additives and electrolytes.
“What is great about our products is that they are safe for women at any age and any stage of their life cycle. So, women going through pregnancy, breastfeeding, menopause, changes in medications – you can look at the ingredient label and know exactly what you are getting,” she said.
Reframing who is an athlete and why they participate in sports
Reframing the discussion about who is a female athlete and why women exercise and compete is fundamental to Levelle Nutrition’s go-to-market strategy and ability to standout on shelf in a crowded, highly fragmented category.
“Something that really sets us apart is that we’re actively trying to pursue research and research grants that really expand the breadth of knowledge and research on female athletes and women’s nutrition. And so that way, we’re not just putting out safe products, but we really get to educate the market and what women deserve,” Alvarez said.
She added much of the limited sports nutrition marketing aimed at women misses the mark.
“It’s crazy in terms that women haven’t been addressed before within the sports nutrition industry. Or if we have, it’s about getting skinny and looking sexy. And I will tell you from myself, the women we interviewed, that’s not our priority. Our priority is goal setting. Our priority is me time. Our priority is being healthier for our friends and family. And so want to channel all of that within our company,” she explained.
Levelle Nutrition also wants to expand the current narrow perception of who is a female athlete from those competing in the top of their field or Olympians to include weekend warriors, women who go out every couple of weeks or who simultaneously push baby carriages and grocery carts up a flight of stairs to exit public transportation.
As a Latina founder, Alvarez added, “it is really important to me to show that representation. And so, we’re always trying to bring this diverse perspective within the sports nutrition space – not only focused on women, but focused on full diversity.”
Women represent a ‘huge’ potential in sports nutrition
By focusing on women in sports nutrition, Alvarez says Levelle Nutrition is tapping into a “huge” unmet need and given the highly fragmented nature of the segment has significant potential to gain market share.
“The market is about to explode,” she said, explaining that the participation rate of women in different sports are projected to outpace that of men in the next five years.
In addition, women make 70-80% of the purchasing decisions for their households and are the largest consumers of sports nutrition products.
Finally, while Alvarez acknowledge Levelle is entering a crowded market with many well established brands, she sees potential to capture market share because the majority of players in the space have less than 2.1% of market share currently.
To seize this potential, Alvarez said the young company will focus through 2024 on increasing its distribution in brick and mortar stores, leveraging its online sales platform and innovating across different platforms to meet different needs and preferences.