Quest Nutrition – 3 Year Growth 57,348%


Quest Nutrition – USA

Product: Protein Bars & Health Foods    |   3-Year Growth:   57,348%    |    Revenue: $USD 86.2M

Have you ever wondered who is ‘killing it’ in the food business sector right now? We do all the time, because this information is as good as any ‘barometer’ of where the buying public’s money is, and of course where your food business’s profits lie. In this article, we look at Quest Nutrition, a manufacturer of health products currently in the top position as a food business on the Inc 5000 list. According to the company’s website, Quest Nutrition (based in El Segundo, California) was started with the goal to “revolutionise food and make healthy eating fun”. 

Sounds innocuous and deceptively ordinary by the standard of most mission statements. No covetous scheme to corner the market. No game-plan to take over the world. A little broad in scope for a startup perhaps? Yet, a few minutes of reading the company’s growth trajectory and you feel your eyebrows begin to knit. Quest Nutrition’s 3-year growth figures are simply staggering. The revenue numbers are comparably impressive. And the story of sheer determination is as gutsy as any entrepreneurial tale. Be inspired!

Kitchen Table Launch

It’s 2010 and Shannon Penna is setting out to make a new kind of protein bar. Quest launches with two flavours ‘”Vanilla Almond Crunch” and “Peanut Butter Supreme”. Having labored around an ordinary kitchen table, trying out combinations and ingredients, the business is soon ready to ‘graduate to a tiny commercial kitchen’. Body builders and fitness fanatics soon begin to take notice and demand takes off.

New Machine New Premises

Growing far faster than anticipated, Shannon and her team seek out quotes from manufacturers of industrial equipment to match their specific needs. Complex machinery arrives and the team are forced to move premises yet again, only to discover that the much-vaunted unit just can’t cope with the formula which Quest’s bars require. Numerous consultations with numerous consultants ensue. The message is clear: “rework your formula”. Shannon and her team do the unthinkable for a startup. They commission a new standard of machine.

Quest Nutrition Grow Up

It’s now 2012, less than two years out of the starting block and opportunity is hammering on the door . GNC Holdings Inc., a “leading global specialty retailer of health and wellness products” (8,800 locations in the USA – franchise operations in more than 50 countries) bestows upon Quest Nutrition the accolade of  “Protein Bar of the Year”.  Shannon and her team are ecstatic. Social Media is electrified.  Community endorsement of the brand outstrips all rational expectations. The profile of the average customer profile morphs to reflect the growing appetite of new consumers outside the fitness community.

Raving Fans Surprise with Ideas

2013 arrives and Quest’s R&D squad are testing new ideas and a plethora of new recipes. But these recipes aren’t all  originating inside the company’s test kitchen. Unprompted, the raving Quest Nutrition community is in fact testing and submitting its very own . All manner of combinations, flavors, pictures and creations dart around on social media as the company leverages Instagram to share 15-second inventions with their legions of fans. Out of the blue, GNC informs Shannon and team, that they are the unequivocal choice for ‘Protein Bar of the Year’ for the second year running. Quest Nutrition cannot quite believe their achievement.

International Stage and Expansion

Quest Nutrition has taken the elevator to the international stage. Orders start to arrive from around the globe. Two mammoth brands Vitamin Shoppe, (600 locations in the USA – outlets overseas) and both make serious commercial enquiries. Inspired by the online contributions of fans, Cassey Ho (social-media fitness entrepreneur) is roped in to film a series of videos entitled ‘Cooking Clean with Quest’. They are a great success. Social media channels are flooded as fans recount personal success stories, where they shed pounds and reach their physical fitness goals. The business now has the wherewithal to move to a 100,000 square foot production facility and ends an amazing year with a move into its own corporate headquarters.

Portfolio for Success

Quest Nutrition’s product portfolio currently includes protein bars, a range of powders, pastas, chips and peanut-butter ‘cravings’. A profitable affiliate program leverages the partners’ channels to expand the reach of the business. By nurturing and engaging interaction with loyal fans, Quest has garnered over 1.03 million likes on Facebook and attracted over 114,000 followers on Twitter. In addition, Instagram, a social media platform enables Quest’s loyal fan base to share pictures and videos of their interaction with the company’s products. It’s a brand manager’s dream come true!

In just three short years, the company has added 189 employees and increased revenue from $USD 143,853 to a whopping, jaw-dropping, eye-popping $USD 82.6M. That’s a mind-blowing 57,348% growth.  Can you think of any business that has done this either in the food sector or in any other sector for that matter. Nope, neither can we.  Inspired?….. Absolutely.

Links & Resources

  • Quest Nutrition – Company website
  • Facebook – Quest Nutrition on Facebook
  • Twitter – Quest Nutrition on Twitter
  • Inc 5000  – Inc magazine annual list of top food businesses – USA
  • Cassey Ho – Social media fitness entrepreneur
  • GNC Holdings – Company website – USA
  • Vitamin Shoppe – Company website – USA
  • shopify* – online e-commerce platform to sell your food products online
  • 99designs* – start a contest where designers compete to design your logo
  • LivePlan* – start your food business plan from 100’s of templates – USA

*This is an affiliate link, where we enjoy a small commission at no cost to you, should you sign-up with our recommended providers. Whenever we stand to make any dough (excuse the pun) from an affiliate, whose services or goods we have used and recommend we will proudly mark this with an asterisk*

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About Author

Mark Hayes - Editor

Graduating after 4 years at Shannon College of Hotel Management in Ireland, Mark worked in hospitality and restaurant management roles for ClubMed, Disney (in both Florida and Paris, France), Sheraton Hotels (Frankfurt, Germany) as well as management positions in restaurant chains in the UK. Mark completed an MBA in 2010 with a master's thesis focused on food franchise operations. Through interviewing food business owners, franchise-holders and food-vendors, Mark found that he really enjoyed finding out exactly what compels people to start food businesses and what it is they do to make them profitable and rewarding. In recent years, Mark has also run a successful farmer's market business with his parents, both of whom are passionate 'foodies'. From sourcing ingredients to making food by hand, packaging it, pricing it and selling it in a competitive marketplace, Mark wants to help you to make your food startup a success.