Nate Frazier & Ken Huntly: Why GNC? Strategy in 2023 | Episode #098

https://blog.priceplow.com/podcast/nate-frazier-ken-huntly-gnc-2023-098

At the 2023 GNC Franchise Convention, Team PricePlow was a guest of Kaged’s, and Ben had a quick moment to talk with Nate Frazier (Chief Operating Officer) and Ken Huntly (VP of Sports Nutrition) to talk about GNC’s partnerships and strategies in 2023 and beyond.

Nate Frazier & Ken Huntly of GNC on the PricePlow Podcast Episode #098

Nate Frazier & Ken Huntly of GNC join the PricePlow Podcast for Episode #098 to discuss the Kaged partnership and GNC’s strategy in 2023

This is a continuation of Episode #097 with Kaged’s Aaron Heidebreicht, where the men explore why a premium brand like Kaged needs to partner with GNC.

In this episode, Nate explains GNC’s emergence from the murky time period of 2020 through 2022, which faced challenge after challenge. They discuss the retailer’s focus on education, and how they’ve improved their sales culture to ensure quality customer experiences.

Ken then discusses what he’s looking for in new sports nutrition brands, and why Kaged checks every box, which paves the way for Kaged’s late summer 2023 launch of 27 new SKUs into GNC. The focus then shifts to Beyond Raw, the highly-innovative brand owned and run by GNC that ensures quality, standout ingredients inside.

Finally, GNC is approaching its 90th birthday, and is planning to be here another 90 years, so their strategy has to maintain a long-term outlook. This includes some expansion into product categories like longevity, and not just sports and diet that the retailer is so well-known for.

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This is Part 2 of 2 episodes at the 2023 GNC Franchise Convention, where Team PricePlow attended as a guest of Kaged. Part 1 can be found in Episode #097, but is not required to understand this episode.

  • 0:00 – Introductions

    Nate Frazier is currently GNC’s Chief Operating Officer and Ken Huntly is the VP of Sports Nutrition. Aaron Heidebreicht of Kaged from Episode 097 is still on, but leaves the speaking in this one to Nate and Ken.

  • 0:30 – Why GNC?

    Aaron notes that no retailer has a stickier audience than GNC, which fits perfectly with Kaged growth since the rebrand. Kaged has a community-based model, and they listen to their audience — especially those who have been active within the last 18 months through their rebrand (reference back to Episode #058: Kaged Muscle is now Kaged).

    Throughout this process, Aaron asked, “Who is Kaged’s best partner?” and it lined up with a perfect partnership opportunity with GNC.

  • 2:10 – GNC emerges from the chaos of 2020/2021

    From the GNC side, Nate notes the scary period in 2020 for the sports supplement industry. People couldn’t come into their locations for a while. Then came the global supply chain meltdown, which overflowed into 2021 and made it difficult for brands to come out with new products.

    As that began to relax in 2022, inflation took over and dampened the energy again in the industry. All of this together impacted innovation for quite a while.

    As that problem eases, everybody is starting to think about what the future holds. GNC’s been looking to bring new innovations out, and their customers are expecting it, too. Aside from some behind-the-scenes operations, such as expanding their subscription program, partnering with more innovative brands is the next step.

    Nate repeats the question asked in GNC’s walls — “How can we bring things out that are best in class?” — and one major answer to that question is Kaged.

  • 5:10 – Live Well

    “Our mantra is and always has been Live Well. That means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. And if they’ve got a goal of ‘I want to have a great workout’ or ‘I want to have a great pump’ or ‘I want to have this focus agent out there’, we’re here to deliver that to them.”

    — Nate Frazier, GNC Chief Operating Officer

    Nate mentions that GNC’s coming up on its 90th birthday, and they’re going to be there for another 90 years. That’s being used to make sure the consumer experience is as rich as it could possibly be.

  • 5:45 – GNC’s Selling Culture

    Ben notes how the strategy around GNC has evolved over the years, and asks what GNC’s focus for the future is.

    Aaron Heidebreicht & Darin Decker: PricePlow Podcast Episode #097

    In the previous episode, Aaron Heidebreicht and Darin Decker of Kaged joined the PricePlow Podcast from the 2023 GNC Franchise Convention to discuss major partnership updates, which includes an enormous launch at GNC!

    Nate mentions three buckets. GNC had gotten to a place that was very sports and diet focused. This led to promotions where additional money was offered to boost their coaches’ (store associates) income. It started out from a genuine place, but it led to distraction and confusion for the consumer as GNC’s employee promotions continually changed.

    GNC decided to change the way associates were compensated by tying it to how the store performs as a whole. This helps build teamwork. In order for people to win, everybody has to win together. This has created a much more even playing field for associates and brands alike.

    So if you come in and want to buy Kaged, they get taken to Kaged and make sure they get the right message. If the store succeeds, the team succeeds. GNC had also felt “The Great Resignation” and this was meant to combat that.

    Second, GNC did a full relaunch of training and education for associates – they redid their GNC University program. It’s gamified and is digested in 30-day chunks. It’s been very successful and a differentiator for the company.

  • 9:20 – Education in the Supplement Industry

    Ben notes how important education is in the supplement industry. These products are ingested, making education a potentially life-and-death difference-maker.

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    GNC strives to provide next-level service in the consumer education endeavor. Ben notes how the level of education and curiosity has expanded massively over time in the industry.

    Nate explains how passionate many people are about this industry. GNC can latch on to this, as well as their employee’s love for their communities. Our industry is special in that way – not everyone reads industry blogs on Friday nights, but media like PricePlow does get that level of interest.

  • 12:00 – Partnerships: What does GNC look for in a partner?

    Ben asks Ken what he looks for in a partner. Ken says a partner has to be different. GNC looks for the best things, not necessarily having everything for the sake of having it. There must be purpose in a brand. The things that are on the shelf are the things people want.

    There are probably 10 products that don’t get through for every one that does. GNC doesn’t want to be a “me-too” company.

  • 13:15 – Innovation

    GNC has everything from Glaxon to Ghost, which covers a huge spectrum of industry innovation. GNC’s own brand, Beyond Raw, has tons of new ingredients, experiences, and collaborations. Ben asks how the brand is changing things.

    Beyond Raw Jolly Rancher Watermelon

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    GNC puts a ton of effort into design and R&D, in an effort to formulate in innovative ways. Development is constant at Beyond Raw. It’s where GNC really digs deep into ingredients and formulations.

    Beyond Raw came into focus with Lit being the predominant pre-workout supplement, and they’ve continued to innovate and update, from formulas to flavor. Beyond Raw always has something to talk about, and has what people want with efficacious formulas.

    Ben mentions how robust the scientific team at GNC is – not just in terms of innovation but in protection. As the trend of “hardcore” formulas with gray-area ingredients has taken off, GNC tends to play it safe, sticking with legally-compliant ingredients that have excellent, established safety profiles. Legitimacy and verification are a big differentiating factor.

  • 16:15 – What does GNC want the industry to see?

    First, trust matters. GNC walks through people’s health stages with them – from beginner to expert. They can walk through the seasons of your life with you. They are very careful with sourcing and verifying raw materials. Everything they do in Beyond Raw’s Chem Labs is clean, and well-tested on the way in and on the way out.

    There are also some more aggressive initiatives, as can be seen in GNC’s partnerships with folks like Glaxon. GNC understands that people have different goals, and wants to help them regardless of those goals.

  • 18:45 – Safety in Dietary Supplements

    Young, impressionable folks can often end up buying dubious products, and places like GNC can help them navigate the market.

    It’s important to have the conversation that future health problems can arise from poor quality ingredients.

    “Quality matters, ingredient matters, quality of ingredient matters.”

    GNC’s advantage is that they have a lot of credibility and authority, allowing them to steer people in healthier, safer directions. GNC is heavy in sport and diet, but is seeing heavier movements into longevity as well.

  • Nate Frazier & Ken Huntly of GNC on the PricePlow Podcast Episode #098

    Thanks to team GNC for allowing us to tag-along with Kaged!

    21:15 – GNC’s importance in the industry

    GNC has been around for 90 years, and has helped shape the industry massively. With this comes a lot of responsibility, and GNC goes to great lengths to meet that high bar, over and over.

Keep your ears open for Nate and Ken – it’s very clear that you’ll be hearing more of these two names in the future.

Important Links

Thanks to Kaged and GNC for having Team PricePlow at the 2023 Franchise Convention! This was part 2 of 2 – if you haven’t done so already, head back to Episode #097 with Aaron Heidebreicht and Darin Decker of Kaged.

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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. Mike is currently experimenting with a low Vitamin A diet.

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