CPG Playbook   //   March 27, 2024

Following the ‘better-for-you’ trend, C4 rebrands & reformulates its pre-workout powders

Nutrabolt-owned C4 is switching up the packaging, ingredients and flavors of its pre-workout powders, signaling a major rebrand for its active nutrition business at the same time that interest in “better-for-you” products grows.

C4, which makes energy drinks in addition to its pre-workout offerings, will roll out the new powders over the next few months online and at hand-picked partners including The Vitamin Shoppe, Target, GNC and Walmart. Compared to previous iterations, the reformulated powders have new ingredients, more transparent labeling and a bolder, updated logo that’s tilted some 20 degrees for a “dynamic feel,” Donny Jensen, evp of brand, DTC and active nutrition at C4, told Modern Retail. C4 also adjusted the Pantone color of its powder canisters to yellow-green instead of yellow and focused more on flavor, even partnering with names like Hawaiian Punch.

C4 began making pre-workout powders in 2011 before moving into carbonated beverages in 2018. The pre-workout space now accounts for about one-third of the business, with the other two-thirds attributed to drinks and other products, Jensen said. While C4 does not disclose revenue, the company previously told Modern Retail┬áthat sales have grown year over year. Nutrabolt, C4’s parent company, recently acquired a 20% stake in the supplements business Bloom Nutrition.

C4 decided to rebrand its powders after customers asked for more “innovation and freshness,” Nutrabolt CMO Robert Zajac told Modern Retail. The company then embarked on a year-plus process of tweaking its lineup and overall product playbook. Its newly-formulated powders break down all ingredients by the milligram and incorporate different levels of caffeine and peptides in a way that “makes it clear to consumers which product might be best suited to their needs,” Zajac said.

By more clearly telegraphing what’s in its powders, C4 is tapping into the so-called “better-for-you” space, which emphasizes clean ingredients. C4 is also going against the proprietary blends seen in other workout or protein powders, Jensen said. “If consumers are paying $50 for a pre-workout, they want to know how much beta-alanine or caffeine or taurine or creatine is in there,” he said. “They don’t want to know if it’s a blend because they want to dose accordingly.”

C4’s new powders won’t remain in a bubble. C4 is using this reformulation opportunity to try out ingredients and processes that it hopes to trickle down to other parts of its portfolio, including drinks. “When we’re formulating on the powder and active nutrition side, we are thinking downstream and what that means for beverage, and how we can take some of that technology or some of that innovation,” Jensen said.

To market the new powders, C4 is releasing a media campaign with influencers and bodybuilders, as well as launching pop-ups and events in certain U.S. cities. The second aspect, a national tour, stems from C4’s desire to connect with Gen Z, Zajac said. He described it as a more grassroots approach to marketing and activations than C4 did in the past. “The tour is really about getting into the community, getting a product in people’s shakers and doing it in a more authentic, sort of guerrilla way,” Jensen said.

Pre-workout powders, energy drinks and nutritional supplements have all gained market share over the past few years amid a larger cultural focus on healthy habits. CPG brands that are part of the “better-for-you” boom have seen their sales skyrocket as customers seek out products with added proteins or fewer sugars.

“The discovery of finding a new flavor, a new product, new benefits, it speaks to consumers,” Joan Driggs, vice president of content and thought leadership at Circana, told Modern Retail. “Think about all those carbonated soft drinks that really promote gut health, or those beverages that have extra protein. It’s like, ‘Wow, this is something interesting. It’s unique. And it supports my desire for a healthier lifestyle.'”