Health Supplements Maker Athletic Greens Reaches Unicorn Status
Health and energy drinks have been around for thousands of years since the ancient Chinese invented boiled tea as a medicinal beverage. But they didn’t become a commercial force until a few decades ago and still make up a tiny corner of the overall consumer beverage market.
That corner is getting bigger with each passing year, however. So-called “functional beverages” represent a $48 billion market in the United States, according to Euromonitor, with a projected compound annual growth rate of 6.6% through 2025.
The competitive landscape continues to grow, with both large corporate brands and small startups competing for market share. As with any industry, the race is swift – and well-bankrolled. Many industry watchers are keeping an eye on Athletic Greens, a New Zealand-based maker of natural health supplements.
Founded in 2010, Athletic Greens’ flagship product is an AG1, a powder that can be made into a drink with 75 vitamins, minerals, and nutrients designed to boost health and energy.
AG1 has been advertised as the “healthiest drink on the planet” because it packs so many vitamins, minerals, whole-food sourced superfoods, probiotics, and adaptogens in one daily serving.
While it might be challenging to gauge the relative health benefits of different beverages, it’s not difficult to gauge the growth prospects at Athletic Greens. In January, the company raised $115 million in new funding that boosted its overall valuation to more than $1 billion, giving it unicorn status in the startup world.
Announced on January 25, the funding round was Athletic Greens’ second infusion of venture capital. It represents a big step forward for the company to give it the financial wherewithal to boost its brand.
Much of the money will go toward expanding Athletic Greens’ customer base. Currently, its core customers tend to be athletes and health-obsessed high achievers. Now the company wants to reach “literally everyone in the world who has an internet connection and wants to have a happy, healthy life and can afford us,” Founder and CEO Chris Ashenden told Fast Company.
“If I look at the trends in play right now, we have a fundamental, generational shift of people wanting to have more ownership over their health, a desire to have control of that journey,” Ashenden said. “We see a world where people wake up, brush their teeth, have a coffee, and take AG1—that cultural phenomenal idea of this becoming something you do every day. It’s in the early stage of acceleration. The new funding is to help continue to drive that.”
The round was led by Alpha Wave Global and also included SC.Holdings and Bolt Ventures. Alpha Wave Chairman and Chief Investment Officer Rick Gerson will join the Athletic Greens’ board of directors, as will Mark Vadon, founder of Zulily and Blue Nile and former chairman of Chewy.
Reaching unicorn status is quite the accomplishment for a company founded a dozen years ago as a way to help people become healthier without having to take a bunch of pills and capsules. Ashenden started out selling his products on Amazon but now sells them only on its website.
“The story of how Chris and the team built Athletic Greens from scratch to this point while being bootstrapped until very recently is remarkable, and we think the story is only starting,” Gerson said. “They’ve built an impressive business based on a best-in-class product, an innovative customer acquisition model, and most importantly, a relentless focus on the customer.”
Athletic Greens’ strategy focuses on a small number of products based on what the latest science indicates is essential to human health. It occasionally creates new products, but never with the sole aim of boosting sales.
The company also aims to be environmentally and socially responsible. According to its website, it is Climate Neutral Certified and offsets emissions through projects that protect old-growth forests and prevent deforestation in areas of great biodiversity. Athletic Greens also belongs to the How2Recycle program, which tells customers how to properly dispose of their products in the most sustainable way.
This year Athletic Greens partnered with No Kid Hungry to help provide support, education, and funding to existing local programs that feed kids.