All In: Adapt Brands’ Athletes Invest in Company’s Growth
When Richie Harrington, founder and CEO of Adapt Brands, first decided to start a beverage company, his mission and vision were clear. His drink was meant to be consumed by athletes before, during, and after a workout or competition – from professionals to weekend warriors. Unlike other beverages on the market targeted towards sports enthusiasts, his drink would not be laden with sugar or artificial flavors and colors – his would be natural and plant-based. His drink would be filled with ingredients that were actually good for you, like coconut, mango, pomegranate, and hibiscus flower. His drink would include hemp which could aid in recovery and healing. And if he timed things right, Harrington’s drink would be the first hemp beverage to be NSF Certified for Sport – the gold standard for products that can be consumed by professional, Olympic, and collegiate athletes.
How Adapt Beverages Started
Harrington’s company, Adapt Brands, is aptly named. In his life, Harrington has had to pivot, alter course, or change direction and mindset given the experiences he’s had. One situation that brought change in his life and way of thinking was when he injured his shoulder playing college football at Oregon State. During his recovery, Harrington began using hemp and cannabis products for pain management, and as a result, found that he did not need prescribed or over-the-counter pain medication as he rehabbed his shoulder. Using hemp opened his eyes to the power of the plant, and as a result, he started doing more research on cannabis, hemp, the endocannabinoid system, and how the human body reacts to cannabinoids.
When Harrington decided to create his own beverage, there were three things he was sure of. First, the product would offer an alternative to traditional sports beverage; second, the drink would include hemp-derived CBD; and third, the company would be for athletes, by athletes. He not only wanted athletes to drink his beverage, he wanted them to be part of the Adapt team. Today, four years after Harrington created the first iterations of his product, he has reached the goal of Adapt Brands being an athlete-owned and operated beverage company.
From the time that he first conceived of the company, Harrington wanted to include athletes on the Adapt Brands team. “I’ve spent my entire life around athletes – from when I started playing football at 12 years-old – the kids and coaches I played with in middle and high school to the people I met at OSU – not just my teammates on the football team but other student athletes as well. When I was first creating a business plan for Adapt, I was drawing on all the knowledge I had gained being in locker rooms and on playing fields, talking to athletes about what they wanted and needed for their training routine and recovery. I knew from experience that most of the sports beverages on the market aren’t actually good for you, and that I could make something better. And I knew that there were other athletes who believed that too – and now they are part of the Adapt team as owner-investors. Our mission is to help combat synthetic beverages, supplements, and opioids in sports by providing a truly better natural alternative.”
One of the best parts of Harrington’s job is talking with athletes – professional and amateur – about their backgrounds, their passion for their sport, their workout regimens, and products that are an important part of their daily routine. When he first created the brand, it was important to him that Adapt to be backed by athletes who believed in my mission and vision for the beverage, athletes who also believed in the power of superfoods and functional ingredients, including Hemp-CBD. That was the inspiration for creating the Adapt Athlete team of owner-athletes.
The Ever Growing Athlete Investors
Currently, the Adapt Athlete team is 14 deep and features athletes from a number of different major sports, including professional baseball, football, soccer, and volleyball. MLB veteran second baseman, Jason Kipnis, was one of the first athlete investors to join the team. When asked why he wanted to be part of the Adapt family, he commented, “As an athlete nearing the end of his career, I started looking outside the game for solid investments. The Adapt SuperWater drinks jumped off the page to me. Athletes are always looking for ways to recover both mentally and physically before their next game. This drink checks both those boxes, and since there was nothing like it out there, I wanted to be a part of its rise. I wanted to help push its way into the hands of every athlete in every sport because I know when they try it, they’ll see what I did. Athletes can see the NSF certification and feel confident in what they’re putting into their bodies!”
Representing the NFL are Houston Texans quarterback, Kyle Allen, and Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver, Christian Kirk. Allen decided to become part of the Adapt team because “I believe in Richie’s vision and in the product. I think the sports drink market is crowded, but Adapt is innovative. Being NSF certified is so important as an athlete, and I really believe in the benefits of hemp/CBD products. I think just from drinking Adapt post practice in the heat of Houston, I can tell the difference in my recovery.”
One aspect of Adapt that appealed to Kirk was NSF certification and the community of athletes he was joining. “The drinks being NSF certified tells me it’s a safe product that I don’t have to worry about. I like that it gives me the upper-hand. Another great thing about Adapt is the community around it – the other athletes that are involved, the people around the brand itself, and the product are definitely the main reasons why I decided to become an Adapt athlete.”
Another member of the team is Tejay Antone, pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds who’s been playing baseball since he was three years-old. Atone joined the team because “I tried the product myself and loved it. Adapt SuperWater helps rehydrate you with the coconut water base and has natural anti-inflammatory properties while being NSF certified. That certification speaks volumes to me about the drink and the founder of the company, who cares about what is going into the athlete’s body and how it will help us in the long run. It’s a product that you can trust is natural and clean, something you can drink daily without getting hooked on actual anti-inflammatory drugs. I think other athletes should add it to their daily routine as well.”
One of the newest members of the Adapt team is professional soccer player, Deandre Yedlin, who has played in the MLS, the English Premier League, and on the US National team. He’ll be playing for the US in the FIFA World Cup which starts next month in Qatar. When asked about his connection to Adapt, Yedlin commented, “When I was first introduced to Adapt’s beverage, I thought the taste was great. Then, as I started to learn more about it, I saw that Adapt was a trailblazer in its respective area. I love being part of anything that’s a trailblazer. I love being connected to people who push the boundaries, people who don’t like to stay in their lane, people who try to open ways for different things. It’s extremely important to me that Adapt is NSF certified. As an athlete you want to know what you’re taking is safe, and that it’s going to help with my performance and recovery. As I’ve learned more about the product, I see how good it is for the body, and for me as an athlete. It was a no-brainer to join the Adapt family.”
Adapt Brand's Expansion
Harrington and his team have experienced a number of big wins in 2022: successfully launching the beverages this spring; expanding the brand’s retail reach; earning NSF certification; and growing the team of Adapt athlete-owners. Most recently, Adapt has been accepted to Pokatok Labs’ newest cohort of businesses. Pokatok is a Houston-based organization focused on advancing sports tech startups, which will give Adapt access to a network of investors, advisors, and subject matter experts as the company continues to grow. By the end of 2022, Harrington’s goal is to have Adapt on the shelves of 250 retail stores, as well as deals with 10 professional teams. In 2023, the plan is to expand the Superwater line focused on energy and sleep to round out the product suite, expand retail distribution in California and other west coast markets, sign at least ten teams from each professional league, and continue to grow the roster of employees and Adapt athletes. “As we continue to move forward and grow the company, I know there will be times where I’ll be challenged again, just like I have been in the past. Sometimes you have to change your organization structure, your procedures, or your product to make sure you are meeting consumer needs. I’ll always be able to adapt and change – always with the company’s mission in mind – to produce a healthy, natural alternative to synthetic sports products and opioids. Whether it’s an inch or a mile, any movement forward shows progress.”