FitAid brings its supplements from gyms to grocery

The 'drinkable vitamin' brand is looking to conventional retail as efforts targeting fitness clubs have been off the table.



Gyms have been closed for months, and are operating under limited capacity and strict guidelines as they gradually reopen. This means fitness-focused beverage player LifeAid is looking to get its “conventional vitamins” into conventional grocers.

In the U.S., California-based LifeAid offers a range of beverage SKUs including nootropics and hemp-based drinks, as well as a range of recovery options. In Canada, however, it is launching two SKUs under the FitAid brand, both focused on recovery: one that is already in market and a Keto-friendly zero sugar option set to launch soon.

LifeAid says sales of its FitAid drink in Canada doubled projections for its first month on shelves. The brand had planned on leveraging Canadians’ passion for fitness to help it grow, as LifeAid had already built its brand currency stateside by targeting adherents of the strength and conditioning workout program CrossFit.

It’s gym-first model worked successfully in the U.S., where Orion Melehan, LifeAid’s co-founder and CEO, says it was one of the first beverage brands to specifically target CrossFit aficionados, sold in 5,000 gyms and sponsoring the CrossFit games.

“They are early evangelizers and it’s a global exercise regimen,” he says. “Recovery is a big part of it.”

The brand used the same approach to the Canadian market when it entered last fall, and Melehan says many of the country’s 800 CrossFit gyms have purchased FitAid recovery drinks for members. LifeAid had designs on moving to more mainstream gym goers at chains like LA Fitness, OrangeTheory and Goodlife to drive sales.

Then, COVID happened, and gyms are only now beginning to gradually open up in regions less hard-hit than others by the pandemic, such as British Columbia. The timeline for more to do so is fuzzy at best – GoodLife had previously said it was targeting July 13 for wide opening across Ontario, but has yet to confirm that date for members in all regions.

In light of that, Melehan tells strategy the brand is seeing success through ecommerce and is now opting to get into conventional grocery retail to “drive velocity off shelf.”

Grocery expansion will take time. The product is currently in 30,000 retail locations stateside, but that took years of first penetrating the CrossFit market.

To motivate demand, it is looking to shopper marketing, which has been extremely important in the U.S. for disruption, as fitness drinks is a crowded category. The brand speaks to you when you see it, Melehan says, because of the naming convention and the Swiss flag “plus sign” branding.

“[The name] ‘FitAid’ with the plus sign is very intuitive, it looks better for you and that white and red imparts some sense of Switzerland,” Melehan says, and jokes that his company is the Swiss Army of Beverages. “It imparts quality and looks medicinal and almost like a capsule.” This is by design, as the brand wanted to focus on function first and its efficacious doses of ingredients.

Melehn says the company is highly focused on paid social and organic media, though also runs sampling in-house, targeted at active lifestyle and better-for-you segments. In Canada, he says, there is particular interest among the mountain biker set.

“Vitamins you’ll enjoy drinking,” is the tagline, and the Canadian formulation of FitAid is also low calorie – it is sweetened with raw organic agave, gluten-free, vegan, paleo-friendly, kosher and contains no artificial flavors, sweeteners or caffeine. Melehan says there is also pent up demand among retailers like Metro, Loblaw, Whole Foods, some other smaller regional vitamin chains for the zero sugar, Keto-friendly version that will soon launch.

When it comes to where the product will sit on shelves, time will tell. This is because it’s a novel product in that it’s not an energy drink per se, as it has no sodium, and it’s further differentiated in Canada by being the only beverage specifically geared to recovery, post-workout and a “responsible” approach to caffeine (45 mg per can, a fraction of what is found in energy drinks). As such, sometimes it is in the better-for-you beverage section, new age beverage, or isotonic section.