How Fitness & Europa Sports Have Changed in the Past 25 Years
Workouts – Supplements – Research
In the beginning…
Established in 1990, Europa Sports Products launched with three employees and one line of supplements. We operated out of a 3,000 square foot warehouse on Pressley Road in Charlotte, NC. There was no air-conditioning and no trucks (just one van). Today, the distribution centers for Europa Sports Products spans 176,000 square feet and runs on a fleet of trucks with approximately 500 employees. As we approach the 25th anniversary of ESP, let’s take a look back and see what shape the fitness industry was in before Eric Hillman and Jeff Compton decided to revolutionize it.
The State of Fitness in the 70s, 80s & 90s
Did you know that coed gyms didn’t exist before the 1970s? Gyms scheduled separate days for men and women to exercise. If men wanted daily access, they joined a “bodybuilding” gym. One of the most popular sports supplement products during this time was a testosterone booster and anabolic mega packs (a mix of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids). Protein was the most important part of the nutrition plan, but individuals consumed more fat because of their protein sources. Most of the protein powders were milk and egg based.
Group classes became all the rage in the 1980s. That’s when gyms started looking for more revenue streams besides memberships. So they added juice bars. Keep in mind that in the 1980s, the idea of taking supplements on a regular basis had not gone mainstream. Mostly, it was only the major “bodybuilders” who used supplements. Back then, individuals interested in supplements didn’t have a lot of access to information about what to take, when to take it, and why. If you wanted access to supplements, you had to take a trip to a specialty health food store.
When the focus began to shift to functional fitness in the 1990s, the idea that sports nutrition could also enhance daily life began to take shape. Europa Sports Co-founders, Eric and Jeff, could envision how the supplement industry was about to change. Of course, the dream is the easy part. Making it a reality takes hard work.
A lot of people don’t realize that Jeff and Eric held part-time jobs just to keep the doors open at Europa Sports. The banks thought they were crazy, so they refused to lend any money. Eric and Jeff had just one vendor: Vita-Labs. Yet they didn’t give up. On the contrary, they worked harder. They went on road trips and slept on park benches just to make a sale. Their dedication turned one vendor into five. Finally, in the mid-to-late 1990s, the word got out: The science behind the importance of protein and weight-loss supplements spread to the general public. Research began to emerge on essential fatty acids. And the supplement industry has never been the same since.
What’s trending today? The Internet has made everything a click away. Customers want results—and they want them yesterday. This mentality transcends to fitness gains. One of the reasons that sports nutrition has gone mainstream is that people recognize the potential to gain an edge—fast.
The grab-n-go category is also exploding. Everyone is in a hurry today. That’s why high-intensity, interval training (HIIT) and other WODs are designed to make sure we maximize our results as well as our time. People find it less time-consuming to grab their protein shake pre-made from the cooler at the gym than to mess with powders. And let’s face it: Nobody wants to clean a blender. Who has time for that?
Today, individuals of all ages, with all different goals, are taking supplements. Whether they want to build muscle, lose weight, replace a meal, increase energy, or recover from a workout, sports nutrition products are available to everyone, everywhere. With so many options, it can be difficult just deciding what to buy.
The Evolution of Sports Nutrition Information
Back in the day, I remember waiting eagerly for the next Muscle & Fitness magazine to arrive in the mail, so I could learn from the research. Now, 25 years later, whatever you want to know about sports supplementation is at your fingertips via the web. Speaking of, check out our blog at http://flextime.europasports.com/ for interesting nutrition info and helpful tips.
Of course, Europa has taken sports nutrition education a step further to provide an incredible offline resource. About 7 years ago, Europa teamed up with the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) to help give the supplement industry some very impressive credibility. Now, we have university research backing our products. We have studies on exactly what supplements do and what they don’t do, what to take, and when to take them. That’s how far Europa has taken the supplement industry!
2015 and Beyond
Today, Europa Sports Products deals with over 300 vendors and has a global sales reach. The company has evolved from just one warehouse to seven distribution centers across the country. In the last 25 years, Eric and Jeff went from sharing a van to sharing their dream with 500 employees.
Europa’s operations are nationwide, moving tens of thousands of supplements in one business day. Who knows what the next quarter of a century will bring? All I can say is buckle up.
Chip Sigmon CSCS, USAW, CFMT
Fitness & Wellness Coordinator