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Crons Enters Nutrition Space

Friday, 28 May 2010 | 11:45 AM ET

Upstart apparel brands don't usually see sports nutrition as a natural brand extension.

Unless you're Pat Cavanaugh, that is.

The former Pitt point guard who is chief executive of Crons, a team apparel manufacturer, has a brother who is an executive at GNC and a mother who is a nutritionist.

Crons Bars

And while the company's core business of making uniforms will remain its bread and butter, Cavanaugh says that he thinks his protein bar business could be a $1 million business in 2011 —a bold prediction for a company that did roughly $2 million in sales last year.

Most marketers would advise Cavanaugh to steer out of the sports nutrition bar space, an extremely cluttered marketplace with big players with even bigger marketing dollars. But Cavanaugh is convinced it's all about niche — who you make the bar for and who you sell it to.

Crons Come Ready Performance Protein Bars will be marketed directly to the same high school and college market the company makes uniforms for. Cavanaugh's pitch: Sports nutrition is still an untapped part of the sports performance equation.

"I've asked college coaches what their players eat in between lunch and the time they go to practice and they tell me that it's either nothing or junk food," Cavanaugh said. "We can help them."

Enter Crons' product, an NCAA compliant, pre-workout bar high in protein and fiber and without any sugar alcohols, which are used by competitors to lower the sugar on the label, but also could create digestion issues.

Cavanaugh is aware of the obstacles. First he has to convince schools in this economy that purchasing bars for its players is worth the investment.

His answer? With 24 grams of protein and at $2.49 a bar, he says it ranks in the top five lowest cost bars on a price per gram of protein basis.

Next might be the contractual challenge of dealing with the bigger schools who already are taking money from Gatorade, which makes a bar product.

To that, Cavanaugh says he hopes what he thinks is a better product can win out over marketing relationships.

One thing that won't be an issue is taste, Cavanaugh says. His two flavors aren't the most traditional in the space: Cake Batter and Cookies & Cream.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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