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Liquid Nutrition: Shaking up the franchise market

 crop4By Peter Saunders
Until recently a small chain of stores in Montreal, Liquid Nutrition is now following a highly ambitious growth plan, expanding across Canada and the U.S. at a rapid pace of franchise development. Known by athletes for its range of meal-replacement shakes and protein drinks, the retailer hopes to serve these health-oriented products to people from all walks of life, young and old alike, as an alternative to traditional quick-service restaurants (QSRs).

Early Bird, for example, is breakfast-in-a-cup, mixing fruits, vitamins, supplements and oatmeal.

“Our vision is for consumers to get the essential nutrients they need in a quick and delicious way,” says Greg Chamandy, co-founder and chair.

The original Liquid Nutrition store opened in 2004 on Drummond Street in Montreal, across from a YMCA fitness centre. As one of its regular customers, Chamandy felt there was further value in the concept, bought out the owners and expanded the brand to encompass six corporate-run stores across the city.

crop1In 2010, Chamandy partnered with Glenn Young—who had represented professional athletes through International Management Group (IMG)—and basketball star Steve Nash to take the company public as a franchising entity.

“I knew athletes would have an affinity for this brand,” says Young, who has since signed more of them on as equity partners, including the NHL’s Vincent Lecavalier, NFL quarterback Matt Ryan, MLB all-star Russell Martin, Olympic gold snowboarder Torah Bright and pro golfer Suzann Pettersen.

“It’s a genuine and convenient way to reach your health goals by getting your nutritional benefits, vitamin supplements and raw, whole foods all in one drink,” says Nash. “It’s perfect for any lifestyle.”

They opened a sales office in Mississauga, Ont., in early 2011 and added a new line of electrolyte-infused water without any added sugars, sweeteners or colouring. In May, franchise sales began and the company was listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX). The first six stores also became franchises, with their managers purchasing them and signing new agreements.

“We’re expanding in 35 markets in Canada and the U.S. through to 2013, finding local partners to serve as master franchisees, with a minimum of 10 stores each, for a total of 350 units,” says Young. “So, our initial targets have been major markets like Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal—which are already sold out—and Calgary, Ottawa and Quebec City.”

Glenn Young

In December, Liquid Nutrition began a partnership with Breakfast Clubs of Canada, donating a portion of its sales to the charitable program. There are also plans to eventually distribute its products through other retailers.

“We are hoping to build a billion-dollar brand through franchising, distribution and product development,” says Young. “There is licensing interest emerging from South America, the Middle East and Asia. We want to be the leading health beverage brand in the world.”

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