Performance Plate

Nuun's lineup of electrolyte tabs, their original product. Now the company is branching out to energy products as well.     Photo: Helen Cook/Flickr

Nuun Takes an Energy Shot

New high-profile brand ambassador, new CEO, new product—now, Nuun has its sights set on hydrating society.

In April, sports drink company Nuun announced it had signed on runner Kara Goucher as a brand ambassador. The Seattle company, which makes low calorie self-dissolving electrolyte tabs, also has a new CEO and a new product, Nuun Energy. Nuun’s revenue grew 20 percent last year, and the company predicts growth of 30 percent this year. We talked to CEO Kevin Rutherford about Nuun’s recent moves.

OUTSIDE: Why did Nuun sign Kara Goucher?
RUTHERFORD: She is incredibly true to her Nuun connection in that she already uses Nuun, so it becomes a authentic and genuine partnership, and not forced. We have a large ambassador program, but Kara is the biggest name.

Why did you take over as CEO last December?
What really drove me to the company was the culture and employees. We’re really just a bunch of athletes on a mission. From a business perspective, I believe that culture is everything.

What are your own athletic pursuits?
I’m a runner and triathlete. I’ve done an Ironman. I’m training for a Half Ironman in Racine, Wisconsin in July.

How well known is the Nuun brand?
We’re strong in the sports specialty channel, but yet we still have a ton of opportunity for growth there. Overall awareness is growing but still low. It’s probably below 20 percent with our target consumer.

Why did you launch Nuun Energy in March?
A lot of energy products are very high in sugar and caffeine and not necessarily healthy. We’re trying to give you the benefit of energy without an unhealthy product. Nuun Energy has B vitamins and half the caffeine of a cup of coffee.

Will Nuun Energy sell?
The interest level seems incredibly high so far among consumers and trade. At event sampling, the Nuun Energy cherry lime flavor was as popular as some of our top flavors. It’s too early to tell what will sell the best off the shelf.

How are things going with Nuun All Day? (Dissolving tabs intended to be consumed throughout the day, and not just during athletic competition)
It’s a sleeper. All Day has done okay but distribution has been a lot more limited. I want to re-vamp the story and help people understand why we created it.

What is the audience for Nuun All Day?
We have athletes, but also natural food consumers. We get more females, and people into less traditional sports such as yoga and hiking.

Most of your customers are cyclists, runners, and triathletes, but now you’re targeting the golf market too. Why?
There’s absolutely an interesting opportunity there. There are several pros on the tour who use Nuun and got hooked on it. High electrolyte levels help mental acuity, which is big for golf.

Beyond revenue growth, what are Nuun’s larger goals?
Nuun is first and foremost all about addressing a chronically dehydrated society. We also have the goal of getting more people active, and reducing obesity as a result.

You’ve talked to Seattle-based running company Oiselle and Kara Goucher about this larger goal. Why?
Kara really connected with our mission statement. She is incredibly inspirational to many, so the difference we can make collectively is really powerful. We’re also going back and forth with Sally [Bergeson] at Oiselle on what we can collectively do to get people to be more active.

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