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Ctrl, a startup that makes healthy shakes and other nutritious food for gamers, is now available in 750 Vitamin Shoppe stores around the U.S.
As I mentioned in my last story, I normally don’t write about this kind of company, as meal-replacement shakes aren’t innovative. But cultural changes are afoot that make this an interesting move, as well as the fact that esports organization Faze Clan has invested in Ctrl, which has seen strong growth as a brand since getting started in late 2019.
The nutrition message is a good one for gamers, who haven’t always had the best eating habits and are stereotypically known for eating junk food and energy drinks.
Ctrl was started by one of the fathers of modern esports: Sundance DiGiovanni, a cofounder of Major League Gaming. That’s a company that was mocked for its vision all the way up to 2016 when Activision bought it for $46 million and used it as the foundation for its Overwatch League. He was joined by Skyler Johnson, former professional gamer and founder of Team EnvyUs (now Team Envy), along with entertainment executive and attorney Glenn Delgado, who most recently served as general counsel for Major League Gaming.
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“It’s cool for us because we’re representing the gaming community,” Johnson said in an interview with GamesBeat. “It feels pretty good for us, with a full nationwide rollout.”
As Johnson noted, more companies are being formed on the basis of overturning stereotypes about gamers. Gamers have become a diverse group, and they’re not just nerdy and overweight young white males who live in their parents’ basements. And this new demographic of gamers is what makes them attractive as a target market for places like Vitamin Shoppe.
The Vitamin Shoppe’s brand will bring Ctrl’s meal-replacement shakes to a broader audience across the United States. The expansion into The Vitamin Shoppe marks the first retail move by the startup and builds on its growth since its October 2019 launch. Ctrl has supplied over 500,000 meals, gained Faze Clan’s support, and gotten some love from esports stars Seth “Scump” Abner and Doug “Censor” Martin.
It is available internationally, and it built a loyal fan base among gamers, streamers, and celebrities, Johnson said. Thanks to the esports connections, gamers heard about the product, and Ctrl didn’t have to spend much money on advertising, Johnson said. Rather, the company has focused on influencer marketing, where streamers help get the word out about the product to gamers.
“Things came out of the gate really strong for us,” Johnson said. “Things slowed down during COVID’s start with the shutdowns. Then we had a spike when we launched with Faze Clan.”
The Vitamin Shoppe stores will stock three flavors: Cinnamon Toast, Fruity Flakes, and Cocoa Crunch. Those are for folks who are a bit nostalgic about eating bowls of cereal.
“Even if the gamers don’t really care about digestive enzymes, or probiotics or prebiotics, we really did pay attention to the top-level ingredients that we could use,” Johnson said.
Ctrl stands for Catered To Real Life, and it’s an homage to the CTRL key on a gaming keyboard.
“They were sold for the beginning. It was honestly just a phone call that sealed the deal,” Johnson said. They loved how we paid homage to the gaming community with the name of Ctrl. The intention was to represent the gaming community and expand it to anyone who needs to eat.”
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