Taste Radio Episode 103

Spartan: Joe De Sena

+ Kevin Rutherford, Nuun


Over 200 times a year, Spartan hosts grueling, endurance-testing obstacle races that often leave its participants muddy, bloody and exhausted — and they happily fork over hundreds of dollars for the privilege.

The man behind this Spartan mask is Joe De Sena, a former Wall Street trader and extreme athlete who launched the company in 2007 after deciding he needed to start his own competition in order to satisfy his fitness goals. With over one million annual participants, Spartan has grown beyond the races themselves and into a platform brand that encompasses a lifestyle, philosophy and training and nutrition program, an evolution that feeds into De Sena’s overriding mission.

“If I want to change 100 million lives, I’ve got to change lives of people that don’t do the races, that are sitting on the couch but somehow get our message,” he said.

In an interview included in this episode of Taste Radio, we spoke with De Sena about Spartan’s origins, its emergence and rapid growth and how it has cultivated meaningful relationships with its followers and sponsors.

As Spartan, as well as its cultural counterparts CrossFit and Tough Mudder, have emerged, their participants and active consumers as a whole have increasingly sought convenient sources of nourishment and hydration. Nuun, a fast-growing maker of hydration tablets and powders, has become part of the fitness routines for many athletes, drawn by the products’ portability and fast-acting benefits. This episode includes a conversation with Nuun CEO Kevin Rutherford, who spoke about its development as a company and brand and its approach to marketing and innovation. Episode 103 is presented by Ruby Rockets.

In this Episode

1:52: A Whole Lotta Hydrogen —  Project NOSH recently reported on news that Whole Foods Market has laid off a swath of store level and regional marketing teams. Project NOSH editor Carol Ortenberg, who wrote the story and once worked at Whole Foods, offers her perspective on the layoffs and how they will affect customers’ in-store shopping experience and impact brands. On the BevNET front, assistant editor Marty Caballero discussed his in-depth article on hydrogen water and how brands are presenting the functional attributes of their respective products, as well as their packaging and retail strategies.
11:43: Interview: Joe De Sena, Founder/CEO, Spartan — A lot of food and beverage entrepreneurs are refugees from other careers who get into the business because they’re seeking nutrition for their extreme sports activities. Well guess what — so are the founders of those extreme sports, like Joe De Sena. Jeff Klineman, the editor-in-chief of BevNET and Project NOSH, recently met with De Sena to discuss his creation: Spartan, the world’s largest obstacle race and endurance brand. Spartan runs more than 200 grueling races a year, it’s got a television contract with NBC, and has become a fitness and lifestyle movement that’s attractive to participants and consumer brands alike.
37:19: Interview: Kevin Rutherford, CEO, Nuun — Project NOSH editor Carol Ortenberg and BevNET assistant editor Marty Caballero recently sat down with Rutherford, who spoke about the evolution of Nuun, which launched 14 years ago. Rutherford discussed Nuun’s innovation strategy and company culture, in which he noted “I think you need diversity of thought, but it shouldn’t be inconsistent with your mission and what you believe as a company.”

Also Mentioned

HFactor, HTwo, Dr. Perricone’s, HyVIDA, GT’s Kombucha, FitAID, SmartWater, Clif, Nuun