The resurgence of the New York Knicks has been one of this NBA season’s greatest storylines. They have an All-Star and MVP candidate in Julius Randle, a Coach of the Year candidate in Tom Thibodeau, and are playing arguably the best defense in the league as they begin the NBA playoffs as the four seed.
Bar Malik was the Knicks Director of Performance. It had been a job he coveted since high school. While the wins were few and far between when he accepted the role in 2013, he had one of the most coveted positions in the league for its most valuable franchise.
Malik resigned from that position last fall, leaving the organization in good standing. What was next for him was an endeavor even bigger than Broadway; disrupting the billion-dollar sports beverage industry with the introduction of the first plant-based, adaptogen-rich drink; Barcode.
“My passion has always been in performance and wellness,” Malik said. “Becoming a director, that led to me really diving into the sports science aspect of highly medical performance, not just on the court, weight room, but also with the hours you can’t control.
“With all the knowledge I acquired through research, spending time with founders at other brands, advising companies like Ladder, I just felt people were dropping the ball with products that resonate with true performance. I felt like I could be of more value to the world if I came out of sports and just served the people on a bigger scale.”
Launched in April and co-founded by Los Angeles Lakers star Kyle Kuzma, Barcode is the culmination of 10 years’ worth of research, tinkering, testing, and poring over details by Malik.
With diabetes and other chronic illnesses being prevalent in his family, Bar Malik had never been a fan of the big name sports drinks on the market because of the sugar content. He began making his own formula in small batches from his kitchen. His test subjects would be some of the New England Patriots, thanks to his relationship with the team dietitian. Once he was offered the Knicks role, he put that formula up, but would revisit it just three years ago due to personal circumstances.
Malik was training for a marathon and was still irked by the big-name sports drink companies still dominating the market but not really offering a product he felt he could use to aid his performance. His mom had also been diagnosed with cancer and he obsessed over what she was being given to help get through her treatments. He also then saw a correlation to what athletes were being given nowadays to help build up and boost their immune systems, sustain their performance and also help with recovery. He began to dive deep into the science of what was in certain minerals and what extracts were most effective in helping keep the athletes healthy and feeling their best.
Through his research, he began sourcing ingredients and creating another formula. He wanted the taste to be enjoyable for athletes looking to rehydrate and replenish, but also be delicious for the person just looking to grab a healthy beverage while running errands.
The decision to be a plant-based product was made in part because of where they wanted the product to be positioned. More importantly, it would also make for a more all natural and sustainable product. Barcode only contains 2 grams of sugar, sweetened with monk fruit, and includes other all-natural, non-GMO ingredients and adaptogens. Malik’s research on shiitake mushrooms and it’s health benefits led to that being the ingredient the vitamin-D is sourced through.
“We wanted to source naturally because I wanted the impact of digesting a product that has all the ingredients sourced through plants naturally,” Malik said. “Not only does it position us differently, but it makes for a healthier gut environment and that leads to better health and better mental clarity for any performer.”
When it came down to the packaging, Malik knew he wanted the presentation of the product to be simplistic, minimalistic but also be a way to build a community. The concept behind Barcode is that whenever you scan one, there is different information, and each one is unique to that individual product, just like every person is different. With the science-backed research of the product, Malik wants to help everyone unlock their own barcode.
Using Instagram’s camera feature, a scan of the barcode on the bottle reveals insight into the ingredients in a very cool graphic. Further down the road, and as newer technology continues to be developed, Malik envisions holographic trainers placed right in consumers’ living rooms or their favorite athletes helping to provide insight and education on upcoming products and other exclusive content.
“Before covid, I had this idea of having a scannable label and now everything has a barcode,” Malik said. “I felt like how cool it would be as a company to have these QR codes from an information and content perspective. It just made the most sense with the name being Barcode. We have the functionality to educate in 2D, and that will eventually graduate to 3D because I believe the future will be 3D.”
It’s only been a few weeks since the product’s launch, but Malik says it feels like months due to the demand and the work that lies ahead to stake their place in a highly competitive industry. Kuzma is expected to become a visible fixture with campaigns in the future. With not wanting to just resonate as just another athlete-backed brand the focus now is on building out the upcoming flavors, learning about who their consumers are, building a community and further educating others on just how different a sports beverage this is than what people have become used to.
“We feel like this product can be lifestyle driven instead of just sports driven,” Malik says. “For me, this product is about true authenticity play. It’s about what makes people healthier, making a product to serve sports as well as the average consumer. We’re just getting started.”