Skyler Johnson on CTRL’s inception, place in esports

29 October 2019


Esports is rife with energy drinks – from Red Bull and Monster Energy sponsoring teams, to brands such as MTN DEW AMP GAME FUEL made for gaming and esports – but CTRL is looking to switch things up.

Much more than a simple energy drink, CTRL is a meal replacement shake that’s been built with supplying gamers with the nutrition needed to focus on their craft in mind.

Drink CTRL
Photo credit: CTRL

“After I left G FUEL in January 2018, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I knew I was way past the energy drink game,” explained Skyler Johnson, Founder of Team EnvyUs and former Chief Creative Officer at Gamma Labs. “Six months later, I got contacted by Sundance DiGiovanni who told me he wanted an energy drink with no bullshit.”

“I had been in the dietary supplement sports nutrition space for over five years at that point and I know what the industry needs. He propositioned that we should come up with a product.”

Johnson had understood the need for sufficient nutrition and a focus on health for quite some time, especially from the perspective of a gamer. Having previously competed in Call of Duty at a professional level under the guise of FoRePLayy, he used to weigh 430 pounds.

“When you think about the sedentary lifestyle, you think about how long you are streaming and you think about the pros that are forced to play for eight hours a day,” Johnson said. “People don’t realize how strenuous that is on your body.”

CTRL Cocoa Crunch
Image credit: CTRL

Having gained an appreciation for health – and understanding about the wellness concerns that came along with competing in esports – Johnson took on the task of building a new product for this exact industry with DiGiovanni.

“I told myself that we needed to have solid ingredients where people know that we’re not just a protein shake. We ended up with a carb blend, which was important to me as people these days are keto-friendly. Carbs are where you get your energy from, so I made sure to create CTRL as a proper meal replacement.”

Due to the amount of nutrients CTRL contains, its products aren’t the cheapest on the market – and that’s by design. “Our cost-per-unit is extremely, extremely high. We’re throwing out the traditional rules of return on investment because of how serious I want the product to be.”

The smallest of details are not insignificant to those behind the brand. Johnson explains that “the packaging is one of the biggest things for me. When you receive your CTRL order, it’s a legit experience. People always talk about wanting to make more than just a product, and we believe that’s getting something in the mail and it feels customised to you.”

CTRL Packaging
Image credit: CTRL

Not cutting corners, Johnson picked customised packaging – again, going against the grain of best practice when attempting to make solid profits – and DiGiovanni agreed. They were all in on making CTRL more than just the latest fad in esports, they were about to embark on a journey to fix a serious problem in the industry: the health and longevity of competitors.

Once the product was fully devised and packing was decided upon, the next task at hand for the guys behind CTRL was having a successful launch. In the meantime, however, professional Call of Duty player and health fanatic Doug “Censor” Martin become involved in the company. Having known Johnson for around a decade, they shared a common vision and Martin helped to ensure everything was up to scratch.

When the time came to start rolling out the product, Johnson displayed his knowledge of the industry by sending CTRL to the friends he had made in esports over the years. Providing professional players and content creators with products, videos were naturally posted on social media and – luckily for CTRL – the shake was a hit.

“I have such a good relationship with many of the people inside of this community, including ZooMaa.” The New York Subliners player, whose name is Thomas Paparatto, shared a video of his family tasting CTRL. It wasn’t a sponsored post by any means, it’s just a matter of Johnson’s presence and actions in the scene paying off.

“I truly don’t know if a company has launched to such a positive reception and reaction from the community in our space, genuinely, ” Johnson said pridefully.

As the industry continues to grow, more and more companies are surfacing with the sole goal of catering to the esports audience. While you’d be foolish to assume that CTRL doesn’t have esports firmly in mind, Johnson and DiGiovanni have a much grander vision.

“Just because it started here doesn’t mean that it’s just for here,” Johnson quipped. “In my opinion, I think it could end up being everywhere. I want to have it in gas stations within a year and a half. When you walk into gas stations, there’s every bit of candy, there are protein shakes, but there are no meal replacements.”

“If you’re on the go, why can’t you go in and just grab a meal replacement? So, yeah, I see it being everywhere. I want it to be embraced simply as a healthy alternative product.”

We’ve seen the likes of Runtime.GG launch in esports, and Soylent get involved through sponsorship, but Johnson doesn’t necessarily feel as if CTRL is competing with such brands. “I don’t really see us having competitors, however, I know that we’re not the first person to do this.”