Sunwarrior has demonstrated a commitment to making the best plant-based foods and supplements for its customers. The company lives up to its mission to ‘Illuminate Body, Mind, and Planet’ and strives to exemplify those ideals in everything it does – from sourcing the finest ingredients from around the world to growing microgreens in its own facilities.
The company got its start in 2007 in Overton, Nevada near Las Vegas, specializing in providing organic, plant-based vegan protein powders and supplements. These powders can be used in shakes and smoothies, are gluten-free, and do not contain any genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Additionally, they are free of solvents, radiation, artificial flavors, artificial preservatives, artificial colors, soy, yeast, wheat, and added sugars.
CFO & Operating Manager Russ Crosby spoke with Business in Focus about Sunwarrior and its growth over the years. “Our beginnings were humble, as five of us worked shoulder to shoulder in the small back office confines of the town’s health food shop,” he shares.
Initially starting as an e-commerce business, brick-and-mortar shops soon began ordering more of Sunwarrior’s products to meet growing consumer demand. “That is when we made a strategic decision to modify our model and branch out,” says Crosby, “the result of which has been exciting as we’ve built relationships with many large domestic chains, thousands of ‘mom and pop’ shops, as well as about 30 importer partners around the world.”
Today, Sunwarrior’s distribution model comprises around 68 percent domestic brick-and-mortar stores, 29 percent international distribution, and about three percent from the company’s website, www.sunwarrior.com. Currently, Sunwarrior distributes to over 4,000 retail health food stores across the United States and has worked on successfully developing international distribution networks. Today, Sunwarrior products can be found in approximately 35 countries and with language-specific labels unique to the markets in which they are sold.
As a result of such rapid growth, Sunwarrior relocated the majority of its operations to Southern Utah where it can offer larger professional space and accommodate a growing staff. The company’s strong growth has resulted in recognition from INC 500/5000 for three consecutive years (2012, 2013, and 2014).
Sunwarrior’s dedication to its mission – to Illuminate Body, Mind and Planet – is reflected throughout the company. “Our message is positive and non-judgmental,” Crosby explains. “We promote goodness in all aspects of life and focus on a plant-based diet as part of a well-balanced lifestyle. Sunwarrior avoids using guilt trips or fear tactics to deliver our message.”
The company’s philosophy is also reflected in its work environment. “There is a workplace culture that is built on inspiring others and not judging them. We challenge our co-workers and ourselves to eat properly and exercise adequately. Within the Sunwarrior walls, non-vegetarian and sugary foods are humorously considered contraband.”
To help shape and support this winning culture, Sunwarrior’s offices boast ping pong tables and gyms complete with shower, sauna, and state-of-the-art workout equipment. The office also includes a fully-stocked kitchen with all the ingredients needed to make healthy smoothies.
Besides selling its products to consumers, Sunwarrior is emphasizing the healthy lifestyle for its employees in a special way. “We are eager suppliers to the existing plant-based community and vigorous supporters of anyone ready to make the jump,” shares Crosby. “We decided to turn our attention on ourselves and challenge every employee to accomplish significant health-related goals. It is called the Employee Fitness Challenge and each employee has nine months to reach his or her goal with the help of our Certified Nutritionist Ambassador. Some want to lose weight; others want to build muscle. We each have tailored meal plans and access to plenty of Sunwarrior product. There are incentives and prizes for those who reach their goals.” It should be noted that such programs are not mandatory.
The organic food sales industry that Sunwarrior is a part of has grown by quite a bit throughout the U.S. With the growth of this market as well as mass market food sales, Sunwarrior finds itself in a beneficial position as more people and companies see the value in selling natural and organic products. Competition is fierce as the demand for sustainable and healthier protein sources increases. Crosby feels that this is a challenge for Sunwarrior, but a positive for the company.
“NEXT Forecast states that the demand for sustainable and healthier protein sources continues to increase, which represents both a positive and negative for Sunwarrior,” he says. “Due to our current position in the market and our reputation and brand integrity, we should be a beneficiary of this movement. Therefore, our existing share of the market will be highly coveted and fought for. Keeping the quality high and the supply chain efficient is paramount for us.”
Crosby feels that management’s plans for the company will keep the competitors at bay. “We’ve allocated more resources to product development as a way to broaden the Sunwarrior product offering and keep the copycats a few steps behind. Internationally, it is fair to estimate that, on average, the industry growth is about five years behind the United States. Though some countries, such as Germany and the United Kingdom, do not lag the U.S. by much and likely lead in certain aspects of the industry.”
Crosby also discusses how the company is addressing challenges in its supply chain and international distribution. “With Sunwarrior’s growth and plans to launch additional lines, significant pressure is mounting for efficiency and availability of packaging, labels, and ingredients,” he shares. “Sunwarrior’s international distribution model has been severely challenged by exchange rate pressure from the United States Dollar. Sunwarrior’s international distribution and pricing model causes Sunwarrior products to frequently be among the highest priced products in the range. Some of these challenges are without fixes; we just have to be okay with that. However, others can be remedied by obtaining increased sophistication in these areas and this usually comes in the form of added human resources.”
Despite these challenges, Sunwarrior continues to innovate in its practices. One major accomplishment was its transition from using numerous packaging components such as pouches and boxes to the present day square tubs, which has allowed the company to consolidate its operations and become more efficient in its manufacturing processes. “With this new packaging, we are making a significant environmental impact by using post-recycled plastic,” Crosby says. “In addition, we’ve optimized the shipping by reducing the cubic footprint by over 45 percent. This means less carbon dioxide in the air and a freight cost reduction.”
Sunwarrior’s diverse array of products reflects its dedication to providing nutritious products that are also environmentally friendly. The Classic Protein is a raw, plant-based superfood protein designed for fitness and health enthusiasts. It is ideal for people who want to build muscle, lose fat and increase their athletic performance. Sunwarrior uses a low temperature enzymatic process that includes the whole grain of brown rice, including the germ, endosperm, and bran. This unique process captures a protein that’s silky smooth and mixes well with liquids.
Another key offering is the Warrior Blend line of products. Warrior Blend fuses and multiplies the power of several rich, raw protein sources into a proprietary formula that is considered superior to the individual components alone. This fusion along with a cold extraction process has created a unique, raw, plant-based protein with a complete amino acid profile exceptionally high in amino acids such as Arginine, Lysine, Leucine, and branched chain amino acids. Designed to be easily digestible and nutrient-filled, the Warrior Blend is designed for consumers who want to increase their health and fitness levels.
From its humble beginnings nearly a decade ago, Sunwarrior has expanded to become an international company that is promoting its mission of providing plant-based products that are nutritious and appetizing. Crosby says that his company saw the need for these products in the market and is doing what it takes to remain a market leader.
“We feel consumers are more educated than ever before and as such, it is not enough to just produce a quality product. In the age of the Internet and ‘cause funding’, it is critical that a company stands for something. Sunwarrior sells superfoods and supplements, but that is not what defines us; our collective vision is to illuminate body, mind, and planet through our products, our informational content, and our many green initiatives. This allows customers to align with us and join the good fight. Sunwarrior is excited to thrive in its next stage of growth. Our customers will be able to enjoy delicious products in various ranges that stay faithful to Sunwarrior’s standards of no-added sugar, 100 percent plant-based, and organic.”