Today we have the honor of interviewing Jeff Thinnes, CEO & cofounder of SummaForte, a leading performance and recovery brand that uses premium CBD, clinic trested nutrients, and innovative delivery technologies. SummaForte is one of only a few brands with CBD to be NSF Certified for Sport.
SummaForte will be exhibiting and speaking at our NY Sports Tech Summit at Citi Field on November 15. If you are attending the event, set up a meeting to connect with SummaForte.
Founded in 2020, SummaForte offers premium wellness products for peak performance and rapid recovery.
First it offers SummaMix, a drink mix, used by MLB, NHL, Pro golfers, Olympic athletes:
SummaForte also offers SummaTape a therapeutic tape with CBD and Menthol that together act as a triple anti-inflammatory.
The company also offers SummaRest, all-natural, vegan, no melatonin sleeping capsules:
SummaForte is trusted and used by leading teams and sports organizations such as pro golfers, Olympic athletes and MLB, NHL teams.
📝Show Notes: Through this interview, we touched on his background, and his company and product. We also discussed the benefits for sports organizations and athletes to use their product. Lastly we talked about their competitive advantage, business model and plans for the next 12 months.
Best Quotes: Here’s some of the key discussion points and best quotes from our conversation with Jeff:
On his background:
“ I came upon the world of CBD and performance and recovery through a circuitous route. I grew up in the Midwest in Indiana, where I did my undergraduate studies at an Indiana based school, Notre Dame, which is in the Northern part of the state”.
“I went to law school in Bloomington, Indiana, and then I headed out to start my career. And I actually moved down to the Southwest as a lawyer, but I went there because there was a booming business with inbound German investment. And I speak German. I also have a master's of Law from a German university”.
“I joined a relatively young law firm at the time that gave me a long leash as a new associate to develop a practice around this inbound German investment. So that was a lot of fun. I then went off to Harvard to get a Master's in an area of international trade with the intent of going back to the practice of law, but that was the year the Berlin wall fell”.
On how he got the idea of launching SummaForte:
“I came back to the U.S. and continued with my JTI business from the US until about 2019, just before COVID and a lifelong friend of mine who had taken early retirement from Procter and Gamble started talking with me about an opportunity he saw in this world of CBD”.
“It was a pretty crowded space already in 2019-2020, but the opportunity he outlined was to go after people who are committed to fitness and athletes with a truly science driven, high quality, premium CBD brand. So, I needed to educate myself. I started my own due diligence process visiting farms and learning about different extraction methodologies. And one nice thing about starting it, a business or even contemplating starting a business at my age is that you have a pretty extensive network”.
“So I was able to tap into this network and get advice from people who really understood the application of CBD and other nutrients in an athletic and fitness environment, how to design and develop products in that space. And together with my wife and one of my four children, we decided to start SummaForte”.
On the origin of the name SummaForte and its focus:
“With SummaForte, we picked that name because it's Latin for top strength, which indicates our focus on athletes and people committed to fitness. Another differentiator we wanted to carve out for us is not making a distinction between performance on the one hand, and recovery on the other. We've been very involved in athletics personally and committed to healthy lifestyles”.
“And it always somewhat puzzled me that people seem to see these as distinct elements. When, in fact, if you don't have a full recovery, you are not going to reach peak performance. So with that mindset, we tapped into some of the country's leading scientists, researchers, sports medicine, doctors, athletic trainers, physical therapists, to get some advice on one, what are the unmet needs out there that we could possibly address with our products”.
“And two, how do we then develop those products to meet those needs?
And if you take a look at our website, SummaForte.com, and click on the advisors, you'll see we really have an all star lineup of people there who are not just headshots and resumes, but they're actively engaged. I am super excited about what we're doing in distinguishing this brand SummaForte from the vast universe of other brands out there that use CBD. So that's basically what brought us to SummaForte”.
On SummaTape, its therapeutic tape:
“We came out with the first three products to essentially provide a 24 7 accompaniment of our target customers in their journey on peak performance and rapid recovery. So we have, for example, this kinesiology tape in two different sizes, slim strips. And standard strips with 2.5 milligrams of CBD or 12. 5 milligrams of CBD and menthol”.
“So when people are engaged in activity, they can use this tape for structural support, musculoskeletal ligament support, which you see a lot of athletes using out there in the marketplace. But the real distinction of our SummaTape is that those other elements of menthol”.
“And CBD acts as anti inflammatories. So many of the trainers and sports medicine doctors and athletes directly are using SummaTape for recovery. So they finish their particular activity. They're starting to inflame. They feel some local pain. They can put on our tape, which goes to work in three ways to reduce that inflammation and consequently help alleviate the pain”.
“The tape, when you apply it, is stretched. The result is that it contracts on the skin and raises the skin ever so slightly, which allows the subcutaneous fluids, the fluids below my skin to flow more freely. That's an anti inflammatory. Our menthol facilitates better blood flow, another anti inflammatory”.
“And then the CBD is going directly into this ubiquitous system in our bodies. So it's a difficult name for this system, but it's called the endocannabinoid system which consists of millions upon millions of receptors and neurotransmitters that basically serve one primary purpose. And that is to keep our bodies and our minds in homeostasis or balance where we naturally should be”.
On SummaMix a drink mix, used by MLB, NHL, Pro golfers, Olympic athletes:
“Then we developed a drink mix specifically designed for athletes and people committed to fitness, but of course, valuable to anyone who would want to use it. What's in it is our premium CBD”.
“Again, facilitating that sustained balanced energy, if you will, keeping you at homeostasis without the highs and lows of caffeinated or sugar laden drinks. But we add to that two other nutrients, clinically tested a lutein, which can come from a variety of plants, known in general as carotenoids”.
“Ours are extracted from marigolds that are growing in India, and the brand is flora glow that we use. And then we add to that a clinically tested spirit based nootropic. So what are those doing? The lutein is all about your eye health. So vision, clarity, reduced glare, protection from blue light, like what we're getting from our computer screens or sunlight, better vision, better visual neural processing”.
“It is so wonderful for athletes, but of course, wonderful for anyone who would like to have that better vision health. And the spearmint falls into this genre of nootropics and that's all about mental acuity. So your ability to react quickly and more accurately. Both of these nutrients are tested over and over in clinical trials”.
“This product is being used by Major League Baseball (MLB) teams, National Hockey League (NHL) teams, professional golfers, and a variety of Olympians and other professional athletes”.
On SummaRest, its CBD pills:
“The third product to complete this 24 7 cycle for our target customers is what you refer to our SummaRest. It's a sleep capsule, all natural, vegan, non GMO, and no melatonin. Melatonin is hard and horrible for you. And people don't realize that so many brands are out there touting how much melatonin they have, but ours has no melatonin and get synthetic melatonin which is very bad”.
“Just introducing melatonin from outside the body causes your own body causes your body to stop producing its own melatonin and become it becomes dependent on these external doses. So we have no melatonin. What's happening? People are falling asleep fast because of this special process that we use to make this product”.
“And I'll come back to that. They're staying asleep. And the big differentiator, Julien, is they're waking up the next morning, alert, refreshed, ready to go. Unlike most sleep aids where they might knock you out. You might actually log some good hours of sleep, but good luck trying to function as a normal person for the first two or three hours the next day because you live in this fog, right? So we don't have any of that fog”.
“We have some people, for example, such as Fred Funk, who's a well known golfer on the seniors tour and recently joined our advisory committee. And he takes two of our SummaRest tablets each night. He tried one tablet. He now takes two each night. There's also a local chiropractor here in Great Falls, Virginia who tried one. It helped him, but when he went to two, he found that it works optimally”.
On their key competitive advantages:
“So our competitive advantage is trust. It really boils down to trust when you think that's why we got into this business. That's why we picked the name SummaForte. We have to live up to top strength. If we don't, then our very name is a misnomer. Right? So it's trust. That's the key differentiator. Now, how do you build trust? There are critical elements to that differentiation”.
“And one, as I mentioned, is assembling a group of advisors who really would never risk their own personal or institutional reputations to a brand that they felt they couldn't trust, right?”.
“So, we listen to them. They really advise us. An then we go out and we're committed to using only the best ingredients, proven ingredients, clinically tested nutrients, technologies that truly do speed up the onset and increase the bioabsorption”.
“So that finally when we get to our customers, we bring this whole body of credibility with us and say, Look. You may be using another brand, try us, we think you'll like us better, but for that vast universe I described of entities and individuals, institutions that don't yet know what brand to trust, we're going to be that brand”.
On their plans for the next 12 months:
“So next year, we will be with the new round of funding, working with some of these high profile athletes as influencers or partners up until now. We're somewhat restricted about what we can say. Over a dozen, very, very top performing top 50 PGA golfers are using our products through their trainers”.
“We know directly that MLB and NHL teams are using our products. We know that Olympians are using our products, but we need to now contract through their agents to get them actually out there speaking about. So that'll be part of our strategy going to more events. You won't typically see us at CBD shows again, because we're performance and recovery”.
“We'll be going to golf events. We'll be going to athletic trainers conferences. We'll be going to your Upside sports technology summit that you kindly invited us to in New York. That's where you're going to find SummaForte and, and with this new round of funding, we will, in 2024, move into broader distribution”.
“Then after 2024, with SummaForte, it will take its trajectory to the limitless heights. So that's when we develop more products based on really leveraging the credibility we've established”.
“That's when we go beyond the United States and I see us really in the short time of two to three years becoming the Gatorade of CBD and athletics and fitness. That's our space. We're going after it and we'll own it”.
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