Aaron Heidebreicht: Applied Nutrition to Storm the American Shores | Episode #130

The supplement industry is abuzz with changes, and one of the biggest announcements has been the hiring of Aaron Heidebreicht as Applied Nutrition’s USA CEO. This brings with us a major shift to AN’s North American strategy, all covered in this podcast.

Aaron Heidebreicht Joins Applied Nutrition to Take on The Americas

Aaron Heidebreicht Applied Nutrition on PricePlow Episode #130

Aaron Heidebreicht is the new American CEO of Applied Nutrition, who’s bringing AN Performance and more to join All Black Everything in North America!

This podcast was recorded early in the morning before Expo West, where we got to sit down with Aaron and dovetail quite a few storylines. Many of our listeners know Aaron from his appearances in Episode #097 at GNC and Episode #105 at The Vitamin Shoppe, which came with Kaged, where he was the chief commercial officer since late 2022.

Applied Nutrition’s first foray into the American market was with All Black Everything, a brand named from Europe’s best-selling pre-workout supplement that shares the same name. To understand the original mission of the business, see our Episode #114 with TJ Humphreys, their previous CEO.

Aaron’s job is to keep the ABE vision, but take it larger, bringing a whole new series of AN Performance supplements to North America… and far more!

We get some of the initial details in the episode, and there’s certainly more news coverage to come. Watch on YouTube or listen on your podcast app of choice, and be sure to sign up for our Applied Nutrition news alerts below:

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Video: Up and Early with Aaron Heidebreicht at Expo West 2024

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Detailed Show Notes: Applied Nutrition is Coming to the USA in a Big Way

  • 0:52 – Applied Nutrition Background

    Aaron talks about Applied Nutrition’s early days, the company’s growth, and exciting recent developments. He points out that Applied Nutrition’s influence extends beyond its popular product range, with a best-selling pre-workout known as ABE (All Black Everything) – especially in the UK. He emphasizes the company’s broad product range, skilled team, and vertical integration. Applied Nutrition is a $100 million plus enterprise with promising financial prospects in the UK.

  • 1:34 – Applied Nutrition USA

    Applied Nutrition USA, which has been up and running for only two years, is in its early stages compared to the UK operation. The addition of the American brand named ABE (All Black Everything) to specialty distribution in the U.S. has been beneficial. However, the focus remains on the UK where Applied Nutrition originated, with a vast range of over 250 products, including food, beverages, and sports nutrition. The company’s vertical enables experimentation and diversification, so AN is working on food, beverages, and sports nutrition.

  • 2:54 – Applied Nutrition’s Vast Array of Products

    Applied Nutrition has a diverse range of products, including hydration formats like powders, RTDs, tablets, and gels under BodyFuel, which is highly successful overseas but not yet introduced in the U.S. Aaron talks about AN’s potential for expansion, especially through digital channels like D2C and Amazon, alongside considering a DSD network for hydration beverages. Applied Nutrition wants to consolidate its offerings under three main lines—Applied AN, a performance line, BodyFuel, and ABE—each with distinct target markets and strategies for growth.

  • 4:18 – AN’s ABE Story Arc

    Mike points out that there are a lot of story arcs going on with Aaron – Applied Nutrition expanding out of the UK, Aaron transitioning from Kaged, and the All Black Everything narrative from the previous podcast with TJ Humphries.

    TJ Humphreys: All Black Everything on the PricePlow Podcast

    The man, the myth, the legend TJ Humphreys joins the PricePlow Podcast for Episode #114 to talk about All Black Everything, and their new ABE Pump with Nutrition21’s Nitrosigine

    Mike is most interested in the future of ABE, questioning if it will remain at Walmart, where it performs well. Aaron confirms that ABE will maintain its presence at Walmart, and that AN has plans for ABE’s expansion and improvement, including packaging tweaks and a new emphasis on internet marketing. Aaron also reiterates that new product additions like energy shots and pump gels are coming to AN’s US market, along with exploring flavor ranges and potential licensing opportunities. Bottom line, AN has big plans for ABE, and they’re centered on Walmart.

  • 6:18 – Aaron’s Transition From Kaged to Applied Nutrition?

    Ben bring’s up Aaron’s transition from his previous company, Kaged, to Applied Nutrition. He emphasizes the importance of addressing recent events and questions surrounding Aaron’s transition, particularly the simultaneous departure of several other high-profile individuals from Kaged.

  • 7:05 – Aaron’s Journey

    Aaron reflects on the process that led to his joining Applied Nutrition, emphasizing that it wasn’t a hasty decision, but rather a culmination of discussions over several years. He recounts his three-year acquaintance with Tom and Steve, the founders of Applied Nutrition, and expresses admiration for their passion and dedication to the company. Aaron explains that his decision to join Applied Nutrition was influenced by the company’s vertical integration, vision, and strong investment arm. He appreciates the athlete-centric ethos of the brand, which resonates with his values. He notes that Kaged had a similar athlete-centric philosophy.

  • 8:24 – Why Applied Nutrition?

    Aaron discusses the opportunities in his role at Applied Nutrition, highlighting his chance to contribute to the brand’s growth and development in a foundational way. He acknowledges the need for adjustments in marketing strategies compared to his previous experience at Kaged, and expresses excitement about overseeing the brand’s expansion from the US to international markets. He emphasizes the importance of assembling a strong team, and the need for rapid but sustainable growth, focusing on preparing the brand for scalability, enhancing digital presence, and effectively monetizing marketing efforts in line with successful industry practices. He also discloses that what he found really attractive about AN was the scope and sophistication of its distribution.

  • 11:35 – Who’s Aaron Bringing Over to AN?

    Mike mentions the “Aaron and Darren show” from Kaged and inquires about Darren’s involvement with Applied. Aaron confirms that Darren and several ex-Kaged employees have officially joined Applied, emphasizing the importance of their experience and connections. He also discusses the need for responsible onboarding and growth strategies, despite operating with a startup mindset. He notes that while AN can approach the US market with a startup mentality, they nevertheless benefit from the resources of an established company with a decade of experience and ample funding.

  • 12:38 – Why Not A Startup?

    In light of Aaron’s appreciation for the startup-like environment, Mike asks about Aaron’s decision to join Applied Nutrition instead of starting a new venture from scratch. Aaron explains that he was impressed by the talent and foundation of Applied Nutrition, both in the UK and the US, after meeting with the leadership teams. He highlights the company’s potential for profitability and generating excitement in the market. Aaron sees an opportunity to disrupt a competitive market, very much like a startup, by leveraging Applied Nutrition’s diverse product range. This is similar to his experience at Nutrabolt, where he appreciated the constant innovation and variety of products – but he says the innovation at AN is happening so rapidly that they feel a need, at times, to consciously dial it back.

  • 14:37 – AN’s North American Strategy

    Mike questions how Applied Nutrition plans to penetrate the North American market, especially with established competitors like C4 Energy. Aaron concedes that currently, Applied Nutrition is not prominent outside of distribution and Walmart (via ABE), and it lacks brand awareness. He emphasizes the need to focus on e-commerce as the primary channel for initial investments and resources, aiming to drive consumer loyalty and brand activation through their website and Amazon presence. Aaron also discusses the importance of bringing in e-commerce leaders, agency support, and innovative marketing strategies. He outlines a plan to establish Applied Nutrition as a digitally-led company with three distinct product lines, focusing on refining packaging and flavors for the US market and ultimately introducing a brand ambassador to represent the company.

  • 16:36 – Marketing Specifics

    Aaron discusses the current absence of a prominent brand ambassador for Applied Nutrition, aside from Patty the Batty for ABE. He’s excited about the brand’s potential to engage with celebrities and influencers in the fitness world. While Applied Nutrition has a strong roster of influencers, including Luke, they have yet to fully capitalize on monetizing their reach through platforms like TikTok. Aaron emphasizes the need to align their messaging across platforms and tap into different consumer cohorts effectively. He outlines the roadmap for expanding into retail while ensuring alignment with their digital strategy, aiming to achieve a comprehensive effect on building brand recognition.

  • 18:08 – Brand Ambassadors

    Mike asks Aaron about potential celebrities that Applied Nutrition might be bringing on board in America. While Aaron can’t reveal specific names, he hints that details will be released in the next two weeks. He suggests that one of the celebrities is significantly more famous compared to typical influencers in the hydration space, hinting at names like Logan Paul and Jake Paul. Aaron indicates a shift towards engaging with movie star celebrities rather than just athletes, and involving not only celebrities but also fitness influencers and TikTok stars.

  • 19:45 – ABE’s Current Influencer Content

    Ben expresses that while ABE has excellent content creators who engage well with audiences, there seems to be a lack of follow-through in cementing loyalty to the brand itself. Aaron agrees, attributing this to a lack of proper funnels and a roadmap for brand building. They discuss Luke Ellsman, an ABE athlete known for his engaging content, acknowledging his ability to drive engagement but noting that it doesn’t always translate to brand awareness for ABE.

  • 20:56 – ABE vs. AN, Building Brand Awareness

    Aaron discusses the ongoing efforts to unify the branding and messaging between ABE Nation and AN, now emphasizing the link between the two. He highlights recent activities at Expo West and the Arnold UK Expo, where the team is actively engaging with suppliers, retailers, and consumers to clarify the relationship between ABE and Applied Nutrition. Despite these changes, the ABE Nation Instagram tag will remain intact.

  • 22:27 – Expanding On The ABE Nation Model

    Aaron discusses the plan for social media presence for the different product lines under Applied Nutrition. AN is going to maintain ABE Nation handle while creating separate handles for AN Performance and Body Fuel, in order to cater to different target markets.

    He emphasizes the importance of maintaining the existing foundation of ABE Nation while integrating it into the broader Applied branding. He also talks about potential changes to product packaging and flavors, as well as upcoming athlete partnerships and engagement strategies with influencers like Prime to drive consumer interest and awareness.

  • 24:21 – The Untapped “Mature Nutrition” Market

    Best answering Mike’s question about why the American company needs yet another brand, Ben expresses excitement about the development of AN Performance and highlights discussions about catering to a community seeking mature options in the United States.

    He refers to this concept as “mature nutrition” and believes there’s a significant market for it among adults who prioritize trustworthiness and performance benefits in their supplements. Ben relates to this perspective as someone in his early 30s who values fitness and health. He anticipates that AN Performance will be well-received by individuals who may not have extensive supplement knowledge but are discerning about what they consume.

    Mike agrees, stating that he would never let his family drink PRIME Hydration, and hopes for better formulas to enter the market.

  • 25:30 – Strategies For Innovation

    Aaron expresses agreement with Ben’s sentiments and emphasizes the excitement generated by discussions surrounding the AN Performance line. He highlights the importance of having a clear North star for Applied Nutrition, aiming to be a global leader through winning in the US and across North America. Aaron discusses the need for innovation in the fitness and wellness industry, particularly in categories like endurance and hydration. He emphasizes the importance of meeting consumer needs and expectations through product quality, ingredients, packaging, and marketing strategies – but especially packaging, which Aaron believes is the biggest opportunity for innovation in the physical retail space.

  • 27:17 – The Growing Importance of Informed Sport

    Aaron discusses the importance of certifications like Informed Sport for their products, emphasizing that it’s increasingly a non-negotiable requirement. He explains that while they currently use Informed Choice in the US, they also have the capability to meet the standards of Informed Sport. Aaron highlights the significance of these certifications in ensuring the safety and quality of their products, appealing to both athletes and general consumers alike, as awareness and importance of such certifications have grown over time.

  • 28:06 – AN’s New Branding vs. ABE Nation

    Ben expresses excitement about the branding direction, noting that while ABE is cool, the new white and blue branding feels more mature, potentially attracting a broader adult audience to supplements. Aaron introduces the new company tagline, Fuel Your Moment, and highlights the versatility of the tagline.

  • 31:13 – AN’s Unified Brand Strategy

    Ben particularly appreciates the brand’s mature, focused, and disciplined branding, considering the current state of flux in the American market, where the trajectory of many brands remains uncertain.

    Aaron talks about recent strategic appointments to the leadership team, including former CEOs of major retailers, and frames them as positioning the company for a cohesive global brand strategy. He emphasizes the goal of unifying the brand’s look and feel across all product lines and regions. Aaron stresses the importance of consistency and clarity, regardless of whether the company goes public on the London Stock Exchange or pursues other avenues.

  • 33:16 – Myprotein As a Precedent For AN’s Strategy?

    Mike draws parallels between Aaron’s strategy for Applied Nutrition and MyProtein’s approach, noting MyProtein’s success in the UK and their limited expansion into the US market. He wonders if Aaron has studied MyProtein’s model and if there are any differences in AN’s approach. Aaron points out that MyProtein has primarily focused on online sales and hasn’t made significant moves into retail like Walmart or GNC. Ben alludes to MyProtein’s pending launch with a retailer.

  • 33:54 – Lessons Learned From Myprotein

    Aaron launches into a comparative analysis between MyProtein’s market strategy and Applied Nutrition’s. While MyProtein has established itself as a dominant force in the UK market, replicating this success in the US presents unique challenges – initial attempts to import trends from the UK fell short of expectations. Aaron emphasizes the importance of a robust digital presence, identifying it as a cornerstone for fostering customer engagement and loyalty. Reflecting on MyProtein’s journey, Aaron suggests a cautious approach to expansion into physical retail, advising against rapid scaling and instead advocating for a phased, curated approach. By starting small, assessing performance, and gradually expanding product offerings, Applied Nutrition aims to navigate the complexities of the retail landscape more effectively.

  • 36:25 – AN’s Strategic Priorities

    AN plans to prioritize convenience and hydration, but with a broader perspective than usual. The company plans to appeal to a wide range of demographics, including marathon runners, fitness enthusiasts, and weekend warriors.

    Aaron identifies a resurgence in interest in endurance products, reminiscent of trends from the 90s and early 2000s, which had waned due to carb-avoidance trends. However, recent research has highlighted the benefits of carbs in endurance activities, sparking renewed interest. AN intends to capitalize on this by incorporating evidence-based studies into their products while ensuring appeal to younger demographics through engaging online content and a playful approach.

  • 38:19 – Mike’s Reflections on Aaron’s Career

    Aaron Heidebreicht Applied Nutrition on PricePlow Episode #130

    Mike expresses admiration for Aaron’s journey and accomplishments since they first met, noting their daughters are the same age and even once attended the same school. Mike jokes about how he cites Aaron as an inspiration when his wife accuses him of working too much, highlighting Aaron’s work ethic and dedication. He commends Aaron for being a doer, not a talker.

  • 38:54 – Upcoming Releases

    Aaron discusses two major upcoming releases from AN Performance. Firstly, there’s a pre-workout product, which he admits is typically hard to excite him, given his background in the energy drink industry, but he believes AN Performance’s pre-workout is something special.

    Secondly, Aaron expresses excitement about entering the world of licensing, aiming to revolutionize the trend by focusing on health food collaborations rather than the typical adolescent confectionary options. He teases a partnership with a major grocery food brand, offering a product with health benefits and multiple flavor options. Projects like this have the potential to reshape how consumers perceive and engage with fitness and nutrition products.

Where to Find Applied Nutrition and Aaron

Thanks to Max for the camera support, and thanks Aaron for joining us with an ultra early wakeup before heading home!

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About the Author: Mike Roberto

Mike Roberto

Mike Roberto is a research scientist and water sports athlete who founded PricePlow. He is an n=1 diet experimenter with extensive experience in supplementation and dietary modification, whose personal expertise stems from several experiments done on himself while sharing lab tests.

Mike's goal is to bridge the gap between nutritional research scientists and non-academics who seek to better their health in a system that has catastrophically failed the public.

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