Houston Texans Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster acquired an undisclosed stake in Health Warrior, the 2-year-old closely held nutrition company known for its chia bars.
Foster, 27, made a “significant financial” investment in Health Warrior, said Chief Executive Officer Shane Emmett, who declined to give specifics. Foster, who has run for at least 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns each of the past three National Football League seasons, has been active in the fight against childhood obesity since joining the NFL in 2009 and last year was on a meat- and dairy-free vegan diet.
“He’s putting his money where his mouth is,” Emmett said in a telephone interview.
Foster’s partnership with Health Warrior comes days after the release of a study from the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity that found the majority of food and beverage brands endorsed by professional athletes are for unhealthy products such as sports beverages, soft drinks and fast foods.
“It’s a contradiction because you can’t eat like that if you’re a professional athlete,” Foster said in a telephone interview. “So you might not have a product that’s not very healthy and then you’re showing the public -- this is what an athlete is eating -- and it’s not necessarily true.”
Foster also declined to disclose the size of his stake in the Richmond, Virginia-based company. The running back has been using Health Warrior’s products to supplement his diet and contacted Health Warrior to inquire about investing in the company, which was founded in 2011 by two colleagues at a New York hedge fund.
“It caught me by surprise,” Emmett said. “He said, ‘I’m not interested in you guys paying me a whole bunch of money. I want to invest.’ It’s a testament to how authentic he is. He really does care about what he does put in his body.”
Health Warrior’s sales were up 650 percent last year, when Whole Foods Market Inc. started selling its bars and chia seeds, which are rich in protein, fiber, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. Health Warrior’s coconut chia bar last month was the best-seller among the 680 natural food energy and wellness bars introduced over the past year.
“I’m always looking for health-conscious ways to spread that message and make people aware of a healthy lifestyle because things like obesity and heart disease that are killing people are very preventable,” Foster said.
Before the 2012 NFL season, Foster agreed to a five-year, $43.5 million contract extension to stay with the Texans, the team that originally signed him as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Tennessee.
It also kept him in Texas, long known as the home of beef and barbecue.
Foster, who was born in San Diego and played collegiately at Tennessee, has eschewed most meats in what he’s described as a quest to reinvent the modern diet, though he said he still has red meat and chicken on occasion. During the 2012 offseason, Foster was temporarily on a vegan diet.
“People thought I was crazy down here,” said Foster, who is also a spokesman for sports apparel maker Under Armour Inc. “I’m not trying to change people’s diets. I’m just trying to get people thinking about what goes into your body and how that fuels your day.”