- Iconic CEO and cofounder Billy Bosch created the high-protein beverage as a healthy way to stave off hunger between meals or on the go.
When Baton Rouge native Billy Bosch found himself on the road as a field account manager for Shell, his food options were limited.
"I was either skipping meals or hitting a convenience store or fast food restaurant," Bosch says. "At a convenience store, the healthiest option is water and a granola bar. That gets pretty old."
Bosch began gravitating to nutrition-based protein drinks sold at convenience stores. He asked registered dietitian Molly Kimball of Elmwood Fitness Center which she'd recommend.
"I said, 'You know, every grab-and-go protein drink I'd recommend has a 'but,'" Kimball says. "It's low in sugar, but it's artificially sweetened. It's all natural, but it has more sugary carbs than I prefer."
Bosch asked Kimball if she'd be interested in creating a protein drink that didn't have the nutrition pitfalls she'd identified in other beverages on the market. "Absolutely," Kimball said.
Bosch knew what he wanted: something that would fill him up and give him an energy boost without artificial sweeteners, sugar or caffeine. In fall 2011, he pitched his concept to the Idea Village entrepreneur accelerator program and was accepted for a six-month intensive program.
"They really challenged us to create a strong brand, understand what the product would represent, and make sure that meshed with the product we were creating," Bosch says. "As you can imagine, it was a busy six months — formulation, market research, branding."
Bosch's target demographic was on-the-go, physically active 20- to 35-year-olds. "We wanted to create something that was clean, contemporary and different," Bosch says. "Most of the market for protein-based drinks is heavily geared toward the bodybuilder and almost has an aggressive feel. We wanted to appeal to both genders."
The final product, called Iconic, has 130 calories and 20 grams of protein from milk protein concentrate, as well as 4 grams of fiber. Vitamins B6, B12 and green tea extract provide a gentle energy boost, and choline and amino acids sharpen mental focus. There are two flavors: vanilla bean and chocolate truffle.
In early 2013, Bosch held a market test, putting Iconic in 30 grocery stores, gyms and coffee shops throughout New Orleans. "We had trouble keeping it on shelves," Bosch says.
In October, the product officially launched in 40 stores, including Rouses, Breaux Mart, Robert Fresh Market and Elmwood Fitness Center. At his company headquarters at the New Orleans BioInnovation Center, Bosch keeps bottles of popular protein drinks alongside Iconic. With its minimalist packaging, the drink stands out from the rest. Though the brand's base of operations is in New Orleans, Bosch's goal is to expand to other markets in the state and then the Southeast.
Although he's a native of Louisiana, it wasn't hometown pride that led Bosch to start his business in New Orleans. "We had other options," Bosch says. "In my opinion, there are more resources in this city than in any other city in the U.S."
The resources Bosch cites include the sleek, LEED-certified New Orleans BioInnovation Center, a $50 million facility with 66,000 square feet of office, lab and meeting space for biotech startups, plus a full commercialization team to help bring concepts to fruition. Bosch's business also nabbed cash prizes ranging from $20,000 to $50,000 from competitions like the 2013 Tulane Business Plan Competition and Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission's Cordina Challenge.
"To have this many competitions open to a diverse range of businesses is amazing, not to mention you've got the Idea Village, the New Orleans BioInnovation Center, Propeller and Launchpad (entrepreneur incubators)," Bosch says. "That's why this is the best city for us to start our business in."
Bosch hopes that as New Orleans becomes known as an entrepreneurial hub, its reputation as a health mecca will expand as well.
"We want New Orleans to be known for health and innovation," Bosch says. "New Orleans will always be known for having a great culture with rich and delicious food. Why not create a delicious drink that is also healthy?"