Gel-Squeezing Cyclists in Lycra Fuel Science in Sport IPO

Science in Sport Ltd. broke away from its parent company, Provexis Plc, and began trading today after an initial public offering as the maker of nutritional sports gels rides a surge in Britain’s Lycra-clad cyclists.

Provexis, a maker of nutritional additives, spun off the company so SiS could focus on expanding the market for Go brand gels, powders and bars. SiS rose 8 percent to 60.5 pence in London, giving the Windsor, England-based company a market value of about 11.7 million pounds ($18.1 million).

More Britons have taken up cycling than any other sport, according to Mintel International, the market research firm where the term Mamil -- middle-aged man in Lycra -- was coined in 2010. SiS Chief Executive Officer Stephen Moon, a former GlaxoSmithKline Plc manager, became a Mamil himself to better understand his customers when he joined the company. He owns two carbon-fiber road bikes, a Legend Giau and a Legend HT9.5.

“What do they say now, ‘Cycling is the new golf’? I don’t care what the phrase is, it’s working for us,” Moon said in an interview yesterday. “We’re in a market that keeps growing.”

Cenkos Securities Plc is running the spinoff and the share sale. Royal DSM NV, the world’s largest maker of vitamins, holds about 9 percent of SiS, while U.K. venture-capital trust Downing LLP owns 16.7 percent, Moon said. Provexis stockholders received one share of Science in Sport for every 100 shares of Provexis.

Andy Murray

Science in Sport was created by cycling enthusiast Tim Lawson in a kitchen in 1992 and was bought by Provexis two years ago. About 60 percent of sales come from cyclists, though the brand has been raising its profile among other athletes with help from the London Olympics last year and from Wimbledon champion and Go gel user Andy Murray. SiS has also widened its appeal to soccer fans, supplying products to Manchester United Plc players, Moon said.

Provexis halved its underlying operating loss for the year ending in March to 1.1 million pounds, helped by an 11 percent sales gain in Science in Sport products to 5.5 million pounds. The products include versions with caffeine, nitrates to increase stamina or choline to help the body derive energy from fat, the company said. SiS gels are sold online, at cycling shops and in grocery chains including Tesco Plc.

The U.K. is just the beginning. The company aims to expand in the U.S. market through online sales next year. The gels will appear in stores in cycling-friendly pockets of the U.S. such as northern California and Boulder, Colorado, by 2015. SiS is in talks with two companies for a potential joint venture in the Asia-Pacific region including Australia, Moon said.

Elite Equipment

A Mamil is a man between 35 and 45 with a family, who might opt for a high-end bike instead of a sports car as he hits middle age, according to Mintel. At an amateur cycling event recently, Moon said he struggled to spot a bike valued at less than 3,000 pounds.

“Everyone wants what the elites use,” he said. That drove a decision in February to sign six-time British Olympic Gold Medal track cyclist Chris Hoy as a brand spokesman. “Mamils know Chris Hoy, they look and see him using our products and that’s huge for us.”

Moon said he has dismissed several potential suitors “poking and prodding” for assets to buy. Instead, he wants to achieve a goal of 20 percent annual sales growth.

“We sat down with our investors and we said, let’s get Science in Sport and push it hard and in three years, let’s see where we are then,” Moon said. “We haven’t had a chance to really grow the business yet.”