“The whole thing has taken on larger-than-life proportions. It means great things for the brand,” said Len Zanni, Honey Stinger’s marketing director. “He’s a good guy who likes our products and we’re inspired to have him on board and have him be part of the team. It’s a testament to our current product line, our company, and the state of the natural foods industry—if he didn’t see some promise I don’t think he would have been interested,” Zanni said yesterday, en route home from meetings related to the deal in Austin, Texas, the home of the seven-time Tour de France champion.
“I first tried Honey Stinger products during a mountain bike race in Colorado,” said Armstrong. “I was impressed with the great taste and energy they provided. Honey Stinger works for me in training and racing because you want to eat them and they work. I like the whole team—they understand what athletes need and they’re great to work with. I’m excited to be part of the Stinger team and work with them on expanding the products and business.
Armstrong met Zanni when they teamed up to race the 12 Hours of Snowmass mountain bike race outside Aspen in 2008. The foundation for a new business partnership was hatched over long bike rides and get-togethers with company leaders.
“It really came about organically over the course of several rides. I’d been riding with him on and off when he’d come to Aspen, and he’d always ask about Honey Stinger. Things progressed from there,” Zanni said, adding that Honey Stinger’s sponsorship of the Trek Livestrong Under 23 Cycling Team also helped foster the relationship.
Armstrong has taken a stake in other bike and nutrition companies in the past. He became part-owner in New Sun Nutrition, the maker of FRS, in 2007 and invested in SRAM in September 2008 for an unspecified amount. Zanni declined to disclose Armstrong’s ownership stake in Honey Stinger, saying only that he joins its current ownership team consisting of the four company founders.
Bill Gamber, an athlete/entrepreneur, teamed up with his father William, a honey industry veteran, Bob Stahl, a food product developer, and John Miller, a professional beekeeper, to found Honey Stinger in 2002. Today, the Steamboat Springs-based company produces over 20 honey-based energy products that are distributed internationally at specialty sporting goods retailers and natural food grocers.
(PHOTO: Front row: Lance Armstrong, Rich Hager, Len Zanni; Back row: Bill Gamber, Bart Knaggs)