This past Saturday night, a thread appeared on Bodybuilding.com, providing evidence that Gaspari Nutrition’s chief formulator, Bruce Kneller, has been running a business selling Gaspari’s proprietary raw material on the side. Although I don’t know the intricacies of the typical Gaspari Nutrition contract, I’ll assume that a standard clause is inserted to prohibit this type of thing. However, there are numerous companies throughout the nutritional industry who not only sell their own products, but who also supply raw ingredients to other companies. Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals and Thermolife are two such examples, although most people who work in the industry could probably name several others.
And why not? If you’ve got an ingredient that doesn’t have a 100% market share, you might as well gain an additional revenue stream by selling it to other manufacturers. This way, even if you get outsold by the competition, it’s not an outright loss of marketshare. Gaspari Nutrition, however, is not in the business of selling raws to their competition. Their employee Bruce Kneller, in some way/shape/form, is apparently involved in this practice outside of the company’s knowledge, and was outed for it on Bodybuilding.com:
The thread was quickly deleted, however, for those who were quick on the draw, Manta.com displayed that Xiao Fu is owned by Bruce Kneller, and located in Edison, New Jersey (specifically, at Bruce Kneller’s address which I have edited out of the following screenshot):
Ok, so there’s no question that Bruce is involved at some level with this company, in some way, shape, or form. A survey of the ingredients they are selling points a condemning finger in Bruce’s direction, as 8-Methyl-Caffeine, an ingredient exclusively being used by GN, is listed among the chemicals for sale by Xiao Fu.
So, whatever level his involvement is at, Bruce Kneller is involved in a company that will sell proprietary raw ingredients to Gaspari Nutrition’s competition. And this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this being done. SpectraForce, for those who remember the company, made several products that directly competed with Gaspari Nutrition, and was owned and operated in part by multiple parties who were simultaneously drawing paychecks from GN. Then there was a flagship product, produced by another company, using a (*yet unreleased at the time) Gaspari Nutrition formula that was (mis)appropriated by an employee who sold off the idea. So regardless of what we are seeing with Xiao Fu, this isn’t an isolated incident for Gaspari Nutrition, but rather a repeated pattern that has gone unchecked for several years, involving multiple employees.
It’s also important to note that I have no idea what Bruce’s contract entails. Maybe it allows him a bit of levity outside the company – he has filed numerous patents and trademarks while working there, which indicates an ability to retain much of his intellectual property and independence. However, it’s difficult to believe that being involved in an outside business venture, selling proprietary raws to competitors, would be acceptable under any contract with any nutritional company. It’s pretty inexcusable however you frame it.
Right now, overseas, there are licensed distributors of Gaspari Nutrition products who are being undercut by local nutrition stores, who simply make their purchases from American distributors who are knowingly undercutting them. And the parent company isn’t doing anything to engender brand loyalty in these countries, or give their licensed distributors any incentive to remain loyal. Those licensed distributors, by remaining faithful to their contracts, are in a situation where grey market importers are killing their sales while GN stands by. This has resulted in quite a few people overseas changing their opinion of the company and its owner.
My point in bringing this fact up, is not necessarily to excuse anyone’s actions, but simply to question why anyone would be loyal to this company, in a fiscal sense, if the company hasn’t shown that same loyalty in return. Granted, the company is wildly successful, but that fact needs to be tempered with the fact that it was established at the outset of the prohormone era, and happened to grab one of the premier formulators in that industry (yes, Bruce Kneller). This was a time when a couple bucks worth of ingredients could fetch a $70/bottle price at the retail level. Put another way, and giving the devil his due, it’s unlikely that this brand would be where it is, were it not for Kneller.
I’m left wondering if his involvement with Xiao Fu (*whatever that may be) is a reflection of the way things are run at GN…which isn’t good, considering the fact that there is a very interested Venture Capital group attempting to purchase the company at the moment. If we find that a company is rife with disloyalty, my first thought is to look at why this pattern is repeating itself; when I do, it usually doesn’t reflect well on the guy who puts his name on the label.
I don’t know. I do know that when you’re the owner of a multi-million dollar company and you tell your employees that there’s no money for Christmas bonuses – then your wife shows up on December 26th driving a brand new Aston Martin, there’s going to be a lot of formerly loyal employees. When your office is decorated with antique furniture and you can’t afford to give Christmas bonuses, people are going to have contempt for you, regardless of whether they show it to your face. I like Bruce more than I like most people in this iondustry, and I like Gaspari Nutrition too. But the facts are the facts, and it’s my hope that I presented them fairly.
In this instance, there’s a lot of blame to go around, although I doubt any of the people involved will realize that some of it necessarily falls on their own shoulders.