Working out is tough. Whether you’re a beginner trying to get fit, or a seasoned athlete always looking to get the best edge possible, everyone wants to make the most of their fitness sessions. Celsius Holdings is helping make that happen with an innovative range of functional energy drinks and liquid supplements, that promise to deliver valuable health benefits.
Unlike the usual high sugar products on the market, Celsius’ products, which are designed to accelerate metabolism and burn calories and body fat while providing energy, are backed by science, being clinically proven to deliver health benefits in multiple studies. The range caters to both pre- and post-workout consumer needs, with the products currently offered in over 140k major retail outlets in the US including conventional grocery, convenience, vending, fitness, natural, and vitamin specialty stores, along with e-commerce channels.
After years of modest growth, Celsius has been spurred by the fitness boom observed during the early stages of the covid pandemic. Consumers are shifting away from artificially flavored high-energy soft drinks and are sticking with healthier options. As a result, the company has been on a rapid growth trajectory, exponentially increasing sales in the last two years.
With a comprehensive rollout across the globe continuing, Celsius is on a mission to become a leading brand for fitness loyalists seeking products that offer significant health benefits.
Beginning as a small mom-and-pop outfit in Delray Beach, Florida, Celsius’s calorie-burning energy drinks were first introduced to the marketplace in 2005. The business garnered early investment support from Carl DeSantis, the founder of Sundown Vitamins, which was sold to Dutch food giant Royal Numico for $1.8 billion, after he was introduced to the drink by his long-term business partner. In the same year, the vitamin industry entrepreneurs helped facilitate an initial clinical study, validating its calorie-burning benefits.
DeSantis was the largest investor in Celsius Holdings when it went public for the first time in 2008. But after just three years of losing money and the stock tanking, it was delisted from the Nasdaq. DeSantis kept investing millions in marketing and advertising, and it took its second try at the public markets in 2017.
Since then, the company has benefited immensely from changing consumer tastes and is now focused on continuing an enormous global expansion. In 2019, this saw the acquisition of Func Food, a distributor of beverages, protein bars, supplements, and superfoods marketed in Finland, Sweden, and Norway.
In 2018, John Fieldly was named Celsius CEO after serving as the company’s CFO since 2012. Fieldly has an extensive consumer goods background and over two decades of broad financial and operational experience providing a proven track record of driving robust business results and shareholder value. He began his career in retail within the food/drug/mass channel through various leadership roles with the Eckerd Corporation in which he supported the major acquisition to CVS in 2004. At the time, Eckerd had more than 2,800 stores nationwide. Leadership roles with Lebhar-Friedman and Oragenics, Inc. have also demonstrated Fieldly’s ability to optimize operational efficiencies and implement procurement strategies to maximize operations.
Celsius’s core offerings include pre- and post-workout functional energy drinks, that come in two versions, a ready-to-drink supplement format and an on-the-go powder form, as well as protein bars. The company’s flagship line, CELSIUS, is made with premium ingredients, including 7 essential vitamins, and has no sugar, artificial colors, flavors, chemical preservatives, aspartame, or high fructose corn syrup, and it is very low in sodium. It includes supplements such as green tea, ginger, calcium, chromium, B vitamins, and vitamin C. CELSIUS is sweetened with sucralose, a sugar-derived sweetener that is found in Splenda, making the energy drinks low-calorie and suitable for consumers whose sugar intake is restricted.
Complementary products include CELSIUS Sweetened with Stevia, the company’s first line extension that is both naturally sweetened and naturally caffeinated. CELSIUS ON-THE-GO powder sticks offer a portable just-add-water option. While CELSIUS HEAT and HEAT ON-THE-GO packs are focused on performance energy with 2,000 mg of L-Citrulline and 300mg of caffeine to optimize performance and give a powerful energy boost. Finally, CELSIUS BCCA+ENERGY, introduced in 2019, is an innovative branched-chain amino acid energy drink that fuels muscle recovery and was initially launched in the fitness channel.
As a result of the acquisition of Func Food, Celsius added a range of products distributed under the FAST, FitFarm, and CocoVi brands. FAST products are a market leader in Finland and have begun distribution into the Swedish market and in the US. While FitFarm and CocoVi are well-established brands of superfoods and other supplements in the Nordic countries.
In the U.S. and North America, CELSIUS is sold across many retail segments including supermarkets, convenience, drug, and nutritional stores, and mass merchants. They also sell to health clubs, spas, gyms, the military, and e-commerce websites, such as Amazon. Due to the effects of the Covid pandemic including the shutdown of various retail outlets, gyms, and health clubs, there has been a marked shift to online purchasing that has accounted for a growing percentage of the company’s domestic revenue. At the end of 2021, Costco and Amazon accounted for approximately 12.7% and 10.1% of total revenue, respectively.
The major theme for Celsius is the categorization of its products as providing functional energy, with its value proposition ensuring that products have clear and proven benefits, as it builds an innovative portfolio capitalizing on today’s health and wellness trends. Celsius believes that clinical studies substantiating product claims will become more important as more functional energy drinks and other beverages are marketed with health claims. The company has invested heavily in research and development, specifically seeking to combine nutritional science with mainstream beverages by using a proprietary thermogenic (calorie-burning) MetaPlus formulation, through a blend of ginger root, guarana seed extract, chromium, vitamins, and green tea extract.
CELSIUS was one of the first functional energy drinks to be launched along with a clinical study and is also one of very few that have clinical research on the actual product itself, rather than one or more ingredients, as many drinks do. In an initial 10-week clinical study published in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition, the group who drank one CELSIUS per day experienced 93% greater fat loss. While multiple subsequent studies funded by Celsius have confirmed a single serving, 12-ounce can of CELSIUS burns 100 to 140 calories by increasing a consumer’s metabolism by an average of 12% for up to three hours. In addition, these studies have indicated that drinking CELSIUS before exercising may improve cardiovascular health and fitness and enhance the loss of fat and gain of muscle from exercise.
Celsius distributes products domestically through a hybrid of direct-store delivery (DSD) distributors as well as sales direct to retailers (DTR). With the strong growth in e-commerce sales, the company is continuing to emphasize the expansion of its DSD network as it has been a key element in opening additional domestic markets and retail segments leading to increased sales. The company maintains partnerships with major companies like Anheuser-Busch, Keurig Dr. Pepper, and even PepsiCo as wholesalers.
One of Celsius’s main drivers of growth has been its expanding distribution network with products now sold at over 140k retail locations in the U.S., up 53% from 93k in the first quarter of 2021. In March, it began a full nationwide rollout through Sam’s Club, more than doubling the number of stores in the channel and adding almost 600 locations with the launch. In the first quarter of 2022, it also expanded into additional Wal-Mart locations bringing its store count total to over 4,400 stores, whilst also expanding product offerings. In the convenience channel, Celsius began a nationwide rollout to over 6,000 Circle K locations. And in the fitness channel, it is now the official energy drink partner and provider of CycleBar nationwide. In addition, since its fourth-quarter launch with Lifetime Fitness, they are now the number one selling drink and have increased sales each month since the launch.
The company’s goal is to ultimately replicate this success worldwide with new partnerships. Internationally, Celsius distribute in various foreign regions through regional and country-specific distribution partners. The acquisition of Func Food, which markets both Celsius and its own branded products will be used as a platform to expand product distribution elsewhere in Europe. In addition, the launch of the company’s Amazon EU operations recently began in Great Britain. In the Asian market, which is one of the most dynamic and fastest-growing, Celsius operates through local distributors in Hong Kong and a license agreement with a partner in China, Qifeng Food Technology.
Celsius’s impressive expansion has continued to benefit top-line revenue in 2022 with a record first quarter of $133.4 million representing the company’s 14th consecutive quarter of sequential growth and an enormous 167% increase over the prior year’s comparative. The total increase in revenue was largely attributable to increases in sales volume, with North American sales driven by strong triple-digit growth in traditional distribution channels, combined with an increase in and optimization of product presence in major retailers.
While there continues to be margin pressure felt across the beverage industry, the company also saw gross profit for the quarter increase by 162% to $53.9 million. Despite the higher cost of goods globally, a majority of these cost increases have been offset by efficiencies of scale through raw materials production, shipping, and transport with a warehouse model expansion last year. Net income of $6.2 million was also up significantly on the prior year’s comparative of $0.4 million.
Looking ahead, consensus estimates are forecasting full-year revenue for 2022 to come in just shy of $600 million, representing year-on-year growth of almost 90%. While earnings per share estimates are also expected to grow significantly, surging almost 800% to $0.45 per share, from a low $0.05 base in 2021.
Celsius also benefits from a solid balance sheet including $25.5 million in cash against zero financial debt.
The functional energy drink, supplement, and liquid refreshment markets are highly competitive and include international, national, regional and local producers and distributors. Direct competitors include major players such as The Coca-Cola Company, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Monster Energy, and Red Bull. Although, Celsius is confident its products are one of the few calorie-burning functional energy drink and supplement lines whose effectiveness is supported by clinical studies, which gives them a unique position in the market.
The rising interest rate environment and the potential for a recession continue to weigh on sentiment. There is also a concern that worsening inflation and associated cost increases in gas, transportation, input costs, and raw material costs could result in passing on price increases to consumers.
After modest beginnings, Celsius Holdings is already benefiting from a strong secular trend towards healthier alternatives. With a unique product offering a compelling competitive advantage and an ideal roadmap for further domestic and international expansion, the company appears to be at the beginning of an enormous growth journey.