I love writing reviews on food products and supplements, but I appreciate there’s loads of people out there that do the same thing – even though I’m loads better and the thought of you reading reviews elsewhere makes me feel all wrong inside. Reviews are all well and good, but recently I thought it’d be interesting to get an insight into the workings of a supplement company within the health and fitness industry.
Kieran Fisher is the MD of Bodybuilding Warehouse, a company I’ve been using for years and rate very highly. I’m really grateful that he was able to spare me the time to give me this awesome interview which is honest, intriguing, and sheds light on the industry and marketing tactics that often get used.
There’s also an exclusive discount code at the end!
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I went to UMIST (back before it was merged into Manchester), then joined Accenture as a Consultant immediately after. Almost as soon as I got there, I felt corporate life was not for me. I was bored, I hated wearing suits, and I didn’t like the fact that in a large company, you’re only ever a small part of the system. My dad had built a business from the ground up and I’d always been a bit entrepreneurial – when I was 6 or 7, I’d save all my pocket money and bulk buy sweets at the weekend that I then sold on to my brother, sister and friends. So I left Accenture and started up a functional food business (foods that have physiological benefits), called Functional Fuel. I also played around with a couple other online businesses, and whilst doing this, I trained a lot.
I had played a lot of Rugby in school, I’d trained in Muay Thai Boxing for a few years, done a couple fights and enjoyed lifting weights. After leaving Accenture I travelled to Thailand and training in Muay Thai Boxing over there, and when I got back I was taking a lot of supplements myself. This was what gave me the idea to start Bodybuilding Warehouse. I was already buying and using a lot of supplements for my own personal training, so why not bulk buy, use what I want, and sell the rest? So that’s what I did.
Using 2 credit cards I’d stock up at the beginning of the month, take what I wanted to use myself, and sell the rest clearing the cards before it was due and in effect, using the “free money” the cards provided every 30 days as startup capital. This continued until the stage I was receiving palletised deliveries downstairs from my apartment, and had racked it out so there was £36,000 of stock in a small 2 bed. We continued to grow aggressively, moving into our first commercial unit of 5,500sqft from memory for 3 years, then building our own factory at the end of 2013 and moving into a state of the art 21,078sqft facility.
The present facility is one of the largest in Europe. We are now also one of the largest sports nutrition companies in Europe, shipping just under 20,000 orders a month, the vast majority of which is our own brand. Our own brand products are made in our own, bespoke built factory where we have blenders, capsule machines, automated fillers, conveyor belts and other kit that enable us to be incredibly efficient. We manufacture for a good number of other brands too now, via our contract manufacturing arm – so if you pick something up off the shelf in store elsewhere, there’s a good chance it may have been made here too.
Was it always an ambition to start your own supplement (or health and fitness related) business?
I’d always loved working out and been naturally quite strong – the first time I deadlifted at 14 or so, I think I pulled 120kg. Now my max is 260kg but I don’t really train for size or strength specifically, more overall fitness and capability. My workouts are split fairly evenly between conditioning based routines (bag work, pad work, kettlebells etc), and weights work, developing balance and functional strength.
As above, when I was a teenager I really didn’t think about starting a fitness business – now I’m in the industry, I wish I’d started a lot sooner lol! I love what we do now, and enjoy coming in every day. I love our team, I love our customers, and I love how exciting it is to develop the best new products in the world and see it change people’s lives for the better.
What would you say makes BBW different from the competition?
Quality. Honesty. Service.
We make better quality products than anyone else on the market.
Most companies in the industry are full of marketing bullshit – fancy packaging, with crap products inside. I saw a pre-workout the other week that (because I know the cost price of every ingredient, buying them for the factory), I could see only cost about £2 to make. It wasn’t a good formula, but the tub was beautiful, and because it had a beautiful tub, people liked it. I find that very frustrating as obviously we spend thousands of hours before the release of any new product, testing the ingredients, reading the studies, and trialling it on ourselves. We test everything ourselves thoroughly, before it ever sees the light of day on site.
If I was to say anything, it’d be to look for quality. Quality is NOT who the brand sponsors, NOT how cool the pack looks, it’s how it’s made, combined with the integrity and honestly of the company behind it.
- We are one of 5 or 6 companies in the UK who manufacture all their own supplements.
- We over-engineer our manufacturing process, creating products within a bespoke steel-skinned clean room environment to ensure absolute quality.
- All our ingredients are sourced from the leading European ingredients suppliers – no shortcuts, EVER!
- Our Whey is from grass fed, European dairy herds who are well treated and fed.
- All our staff received training to ensure they follow specific, exact procedures and are encouraged to grow with the company.
The above ensures that we make the best quality products in the UK. I’ll say that again… We make the best quality supplements in the UK. If you want results, the old saying goes “you are what you eat”. I’d advise people to ignore the packaging and paid-for tweets, and focus on quality. You will not find better made, better engineered, better quality products anywhere else in the World, than in our Bodybuilding Warehouse range. The prices we can ensure are great, because we make it all and we have pretty huge buying powder and efficiency levels.
How have you seen the supplement market change over the last few years, and where do you see it headed?
It’s become much more fashion orientated. We’ve seen a lot more celebrity brands, it’s become much more about aesthetics. When I was a teenager which wasn’t very long ago, you went to an old “spit and sawdust” rough gym in your rough, baggy t-shirt and any old pair of sweatpants. Now, guys dress up for the gym, and there are hundreds of gym clothing companies. That’s very different to a few years ago – working out has become a fashion statement.
What’s the one BBW supplement you couldn’t live without?
Premium Protein Pancakes! They’re amazing, even my son loves them! Super-healthy, great for breakfast, and they make eating clean healthy!
Have you ever tested any horrendous flavour combo’s which didn’t make it onto the shelf?
Loads and loads and loads lol! We trial about 4-5 new products every week, sometimes more. We are very picky with what gets released. It must:
– Be incredibly high quality
– Be effective and help customers reach their goals
– Be fairly priced
If it achieves all those, it’s released. If not, we go back to the drawing board. The last point may sound odd, but we know how hard our customers work for their money and we feel it’s our duty to provided products that offer exceptional performance for their pound. We will always ensure our products provide fair value for the performance and benefits involved. It’s important – you put in the hard work in the gym, you put in the hard work at work, you deserve our best!
Any exciting new (and tasty) products in the making that you can share?
We’re presently working on a couple of new products – a new flavour in our Pure Whey 80 that tastes unbelievably good, and a new pre-workout focused entirely on the “pump”, and designed for those who like a slightly milder kick but skin-ripping pumps! Both should be out in the next month, but the best way of staying up to date with all our innovations is by joining the newsletter on our websites front page.