'Whey protein for the masses': Singapore sports nutrition firm concentrates on price and volume by eschewing isolate

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

It currently carries a line of whey protein concentrate powder in six flavours, including D24 durian, dark mocha and matcha latte.
It currently carries a line of whey protein concentrate powder in six flavours, including D24 durian, dark mocha and matcha latte.
Singapore-based sports nutrition start-up Lion Labs Nutrition is gunning for South East Asian growth with its locally made whey concentrate products, which the company claims can maintain quality levels while slashing costs.

The company, which began operations just two months ago, has said its mission is to "make quality whey protein affordable for the masses"​, and its vision is to be "the largest direct-to-consumer whey protein supplier in South East Asia"​.

It currently carries a line of whey protein concentrate powder in six flavours: natural, vanilla ice cream, chocolate fudge, D24 durian, matcha latte and dark mocha.

From source to sale

Lion Labs sources its raw ingredients from grass-fed cows on family-run farms in the US that produce non-GMO milk, importing the ingredients into Singapore to be processed and packaged.

The manufacturing process involves membrane filtration of the raw milk using Lion Labs' proprietary Cold Processed Technology, which ensures the protein structure in the final product is not denatured by heat or pH treatment, thereby retaining beneficial peptides such as lactoferrin, gamma globulins (IgG) and glycomacropeptides (GMP).

The whey protein powder is then lab-tested to determine its nutritional profile and microbial count, after which the lab test reports are published on Lion Labs' website as part of the company’s efforts to maintain transparency. Finally, the finished product is packaged at a GMP-, HACCP- and ISO-certified production facility in Singapore.

Co-founder Rupert Yan said: "Our products are made with whey protein concentrate, which has around 80% protein by mass, compared to 90% in whey protein isolate.

"We chose whey protein concentrate because it's more cost-effective, and is also the most widely used type of protein by most sports nutrition brands."

Costing for the consumer

In line with its mission, the firm has said it will continue to increase its scale of production in order to keep its product prices low. It has set benchmark pricing targets of S$18.90 per kg, S$16.90 per kg and eventually, S$14.90 per kg. 

In comparison, a 2.2kg tub of whey protein powder on a sports retail website in Singapore typically costs upwards of S$50.

Presently, Lion Labs' whey protein costs S$9.90 to S$12.90 for a 1lb pack (depending on the flavour), and $19.90 for a 1kg pack.

The company says it can  keeps its prices low by cutting out the middle man, selling its products only on its website and the occasional pop-up store instead of going through third-party retailers or distributors.

Yan said: "We try to do everything with as little wastage as possible for a more efficient process. We also sell our products at extremely small margins to try to keep prices low.

"We are a small team, so each of us has to be a jack of all trades — we don't hire third-party service providers unless we really need them, such as in the case of warehousing and raw material sourcing."

Another way the firm keeps its products affordable, he says, are with its pack sizes. While it is common for sports nutrition brands to sell whey protein in tubs of 2kg and more, Lion Labs has chosen to limit its products to 1lb and 1kg pack sizes.

Yan said: "We know people who engage in heavy workouts tend to go for larger pack sizes, but this is another aspect of keeping our costs low.

"We use only 1kg and 1lb pack sizes to minimise the variety of materials we must purchase for our packaging. This also simplifies many things — it allows customers to buy single packs in multiple flavours and still spend less than they would buying a single 2kg tub by other brands."

Singapore for South East Asia

In accordance with its vision to be "the largest direct-to-consumer whey protein supplier in South East Asia"​, the firm is eyeing Malaysia and Indonesia as its initial overseas markets.

It is also looking to expand into online e-commerce marketplaces to increase its number of sales channels, and will be available on Lazada and Shopee soon.

Yan also believes Lion Labs can fill a gap for South East Asian sports nutrition brands that can cater to consumers in the region.

"From what we know, there aren't many sports supplement brands from South East Asia. We feel there's room for local brands for local customers, so they don't have to rely on only European or American brands, which source their ingredients from the same places we do but charge more."

The firm also intends to add to its existing portfolio with supplements that can complement whey protein use, such as creatine and essential amino acids, which it will launch later this year.

Yan added: "Protein bars and ready-to-drink protein are definitely in our future plans, but we have to use our resources wisely, and that would not be the best course of action for us right now.

"What we aim to do now is launch new flavours for our whey protein concentrate, as well as complementary supplements."

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