CTRL expands beyond esports and games to bring healthy food to larger markets

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CTRL is one of the more unusual game companies I cover because it doesn’t make games. Instead, it makes food in the form of meal-replacement shakes and other healthy lifestyle food for gamers and content creators.

Today marks the launch of CTRL’s newest Meal On-The-Go bars for gamers and its entrance into the functional foods space. CTRL also closed a friends and family funding round that includes a variety of gaming leaders. Terms of the deal were not announced.

The investors include esports organization LoudGG;’ content creators “Jimmy Here” “Crispy Concords” and “ProbGarrett.” In addition, other investors include StreamworksGG; Human Media Group (management agency partly owned by Moist Critikal); esports pioneer Michael Sepso; Menashe Kestenbaum; SCUF Gaming founder Duncan Ironmonger; and Diego Nunez, head of marketing for Corsair Gaming and SCUF. Existing investors include hip hop artist Rick Ross, FaZe Clan, Call of Duty esports player “Scump,” and “STPeach.”

Skyler Johnson is cofounder of CTRL.

I find this company to be interesting because it’s a business that exists because of changes that have happened in the gaming market. As I noted before, cultural changes are afoot that make this an interesting move since the company got started in 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. 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.

Johnson said in an interview the company has found some traction in the hunting and fishing category, as well as in the digital music space, in terms of customers. It is also doing well in the core fitness and gamer categories, he said.

“Everyone’s got to eat,” Johnson said. “Our goal is a natural transition into this functional foods category. Everyone’s still got to eat and we’re trying to provide healthier alternatives. For us, it was finding a niche in that healthier category.”

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. 

The New York company has sold more than 1.2 million meals, and it has 65 influencers on its roster with a total reach of 100 million viewers. It has just three full-time employees and three part-timers. The capital will be used to expand retail footprint, boost retail visibility, and extend product lines.

“We have done well in the influencer marketing world where we can be recognized as a brand,” Johnson said.

CTRL touts its line of powdered meal replacement shakes for its “bottom of the cereal bowl” taste, and the Meal On-The-Go Bars feature new flavors packed with wholesome ingredients, the company said.

The bars currently come in two flavors: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Magic Charms. Each Meal On-The-Go Bar has 15 grams of premium whey protein, 240 calories, 27 grams of healthy carbohydrates, and nine grams of fiber.

CTRL is now selling bars as meals-on-the-go.

“These aren’t your average protein bars,” said Sundance DiGiovanni, cofounder of CTRL and Major League Gaming, in a statement. “Loaded with proteins, vitamins, nutrients, macros, a roasted cashew butter base, sweetened with honey, and other wholesome ingredients, the bars will simultaneously curb your hunger and satisfy your sweet tooth, all while putting your health first. We’re poised to take the market by storm and give our fans tasty and nutritious meal replacement options, and these bars are the next step in that evolution.”

Boxes of 12 retail for $36. Meal On-The-Go Bars are sold in the United States and Canada, New Zealand and Australia, the UK and Europe.

Johnson noted that the relationship between MLG cofounders DiGiovanni and Sepso has paid off, as Sepso’s Beyond Gaming gaming centers will use the CTRL branded products as healthy foods of choice for gamers.

“A lot of people don’t realize how many gaming centers are popping back up,” Johnson said.

Johnson acknowledged that the economy isn’t what it once was just a few months ago, and so the company is making preparations to deal with a dip in spending. Fortunately, he said, the products have a long shelf life and that’s one of the good things about the business.

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