Quickick is getting a reboot.
Legendary LSU athletic trainer Martin Broussard created the sports drink in 1958 after discovering that the salt tabs and soft drinks consumed by his athletes weren’t adequately replacing their electrolytes.
“He took a swab of sweat from guys and looked at it and said we need to put these electrolytes and minerals back in these guys,” says his grandson, Trey Beall.
That’s how Quickick, originally called Bengal Punch, was born. Beall says Broussard shared his recipe with friend and University of Florida researcher Robert Cade, who then went on to develop Gatorade in 1965. Cade died a very rich man, with his drink dominating food market shelves all over the world. Forbes has in years past placed Gatorade among the world’s 40 most valuable sports brands.
Although Quickick was created seven years before Gatorade and is coined “the original sports drink,” Broussard did not profit from his recipe, and Quickick lives in only a few stores around Louisiana.
“I just think he didn’t know what he had,” Beall says. “I don’t think he ever thought about the marketing piece. He was just trying to keep his kids from cramping. I don’t think he knew he stumbled upon a $6 billion industry.”
Or possibly more. Sports drink sales reached $7.4 billion last year, according to Maryland-based market research firm Packaged Facts.
And that’s where Greg Tramontin fits in.
Tramontin is the Go Auto man, the self-made insurance guru whom friends describe as a marketing “Boston Terrier.” If his name sounds familiar, it should. Tramontin is all over the place. He has jingles on the radio and advertisements on TV, and last year he spent 20% of his $70 million in revenue on marketing.
Tramontin is a golfer, an LSU enthusiast and an avid fan of Quickick. And at the end of this month, he will be its new owner.
“Why buy it? Well, I don’t invest in anything that will fail,” Tramontin says. “And this is basically a dormant company that has a lot of potential. The downside is minimal and the upside is unlimited. And I love the taste.”
Tramontin and his four business partners—Beall, who is also president of Gulf Coast Office Products, Chris Dantin, a former LSU tailback and insurance company owner, and two others who do not want to be named—bought the company for “less than $300,000,” Tramontin says, declining to specify the selling price.
The new owners plan to keep the drink’s name but redo the “dated” label, secure Louisiana athletes to promote the drink, and aggressively market the beverage, the bulk powder and electrolyte ice pops throughout the state.
They purchased the company from former Zapp’s Potato Chip executive Kevin Holden and his business partners, Jay Inzenga, Shane Richardson and James “Buddy” Texada. Holden now runs Hola Nola Foods, a successful tortilla company in Geismar. Holden bought the company two years ago from Buddy Shirley and other investors, who are the company’s original owners.
“This stuff has draw,” Holden says. “The brand recognition with Quickick is amazing. There is a loyalty to the brand. We built the base, the distribution, and streamlined it. But with the success of Hola Nola, I don’t have time to do both. Greg is an amazing marketer and can build on what we have already done.”
Quickick wasn’t always a benched drink. In the late 1980s Shirley and his partners secured a deal with Gulf Coast Coca-Cola to bottle and distribute the drink in Louisiana and Mississippi.
“It was one of their products, just like any other one of their products,” Shirley says. “At that time, we had 80 percent of the market. When you got with Coke, it was like getting with McDonald’s and Walmart.”
They also had a deal with Dr. Pepper of Texas and distribution in Houston, Dallas and Waco.
The sales spiked in early 2000, and while Shirley wouldn’t release figures detailing the amount sold, he says there was a sharp contrast in sales after Coca-Cola USA developed its own sports drink, Powerade, and Quickick got the boot.
“They came out with Powerade and they said, You need to drop Quickick and take on Powerade,'” Shirley says. “The last year we were with Coke was 2002. And we kept Dr. Pepper of Texas for a while but then they acquired All Sport and Dr. Pepper dropped Quickick in 2005.”
In 2012, Shirley and his partners sold QK Brands to Holden and his partners, with an agreement that royalties be paid to Shirley and his partners through 2022. Shirley is still president and CEO of QK Corp., a dormant company that has little to do with the Quickick drink products. When Tramontin and his four partners take over the company at the end of October, the royalty deal will still be intact.
For now, Quickick is sold in bulk powder form to manufacting plants in Louisiana and Texas to keep their workers hydrated, and individually in some Associated Grocers stores and in the larger Cracker Barrel convenience stores across the state. The company also sells electrolyte popsicles. There are five flavors: Bengal Punch, Bayou Berry, Geaux Grape, Orleans Orange and Lemon Lime.
“It’s a viable product,” says Don Senft, vice president of operations for Cracker Barrel. “We brought it back in a few years ago as they made it available for retail because of nostalgia. It does have a bit of a following. Let’s put it this way: It is selling enough to afford the space it’s taking.”
The nostalgia is driving the sales, says Dentin, who vividly remembers drinking the orange flavor during practice or football games.
“Before, all we drank was 7up and Coke and all of that stuff,” he says. “One day, Marty Broussard came out with the Igloo with this orange stuff. And throughout my years at LSU, that’s all we drank. It tasted very good, and we didn’t have to take the salt tablets after that.”
Quickick is currently bottled in Oklahoma.
Tramontin says he may tweak the ingredients and replace the high fructose corn sugar with Louisiana cane sugar or possibly Stevia. He’s excited about the brand recognition, driven by the potential of the product and motivated by the marketing plan.
“Sometimes life is all about timing. If Powerade didn’t come around when it did, we were close to putting together a deal with Coke,” Shirley says. “It’s gonna be step-by-step with these new guys, and they’re going to have to have some marketing money and knock on a lot of doors and get with large food distributors to get it on the shelves. There’s a chance the product will be big because it’s so good. … But my advice would be, don’t get too big too quick.”