FȲTA (pronounced as “fight-ah”), a new sports and active nutrition company founded by James Wilks, the famed producer and star of vegan documentary “The Game Changers,” has officially gone live this week.
Starting with easy-to-mix protein powder available in three different flavors: creamy chocolate, café latte, and caramel vanilla, FȲTA utilizes a proprietary protein blend made from whole ground lupini beans and EverPro, an upcycled barley and rice protein developed by sustainable ingredients business EverGrain.
During an exclusive interview recently, Wilks explained how the name of his company was derived from φυτά, meaning “plants” in Greek, and how the slight twist in spelling and pronunciation better resonates with its brand ethos and his background as a UFC fighter.
Partnership With AB InBev
In a certain way, FȲTA is an extension of “The Game Changers,” in which Wilks narrated his discovery of the benefits of vegan diet after a double knee injury, and how that experience led to an in-depth quest for more scientifically proven nutrition. “I think the film helped normalize plant-based eating,” Wilks told me, “and the biggest takeaway is that animals are just middlemen for protein that we can actually get directly from the source.”
The global vegan food market was worth $26 billion in 2021, and analysts at Fortune Business Insights estimated it will grow rapidly at a 12.95% CAGR between 2021-2028. Wilks believes the increasing awareness of rich nutrients plants can provide will drive more active consumers to adopt the dietary trend. “My endurance and strength have improved after I switched [to becoming a vegan],” he stressed, and plants on average contain 60-70 times more antioxidants than animal foods that can help reduce exercises-induced oxidative stress.
The partnership between FȲTA and EverGrain, a newly built subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev, is also a result of the vegan documentary that has reportedly attracted more than 200 million viewers globally, making it one of the most-watched films on Netflix
EverGrain began its operation at a St. Louis, MO, facility in 2022, and it’s AB InBev’s first commercial-scale site dedicated to upcycling barley, the brewer noted in a previous release that also highlighted the firm’s $100 million investment poured into the local community. Promising superior solubility versus other plant proteins, EverPro has been used in major consumer products, including Nestlé’s Garden of Life and Airship’s canned cold brew coffee.
“Barley is the food of gladiators, and the level of glutamine that helps with recovery is higher than whey protein,” said Wilks. In addition to sourcing barley domestically grown in the U.S., FȲTA’s production plant has also achieved the same safety standards for manufacturing infant formula, which yields higher product quality. “It makes total sense for me to make that partnership,” Wilks added.
Plant Protein Market Landscape
FȲTA’s launch also coincides with an intensified competition within the $21.5 billion U.S. protein supplements market (Global Market Insights data), where there has been several notable deals in recent years:
Nestlé’s health science division bought a majority stake in Orgain in 2022, and private equity WM Partners acquired Vega during the prior year. Around the same time, Unilever snapped up Austin, TX-based supplements brand Onnit for nine figures, while plant-forward nutrition powerhouse KOS earlier secured $12 million in a series A financing round.
Wilks noted how FȲTA will initially build upon the existing fanbase of “The Game Changers” to launch via direct-to-consumer and Amazon
“The first film looked at [how vegan diet] influences personal performance, and the sequel that has about three to four high-profile athletes and notable figures involved will touch upon broader issues, including children’s health, food justice, and the environment,” Wilks said. “We’re in pre-production right now, and it won’t be out until 2025.”