CytoSport is an American manufacturer of sports-oriented nutritional products, or "supplements" based in Benicia, California. It offers a line of protein-enhanced powders, shakes, and bars has broken into the mainstream market with a ready-to-drink form of protein supplement Muscle Milk, a non-dairy beverage which is trans-fat-free, lactose-free, contain no high fructose corn syrup and is shelf stable. Muscle Milk mainly markets on taste by using familiar milkshake flavors such as banana, milk chocolate and vanilla to drive consumers to the product, along with multiple drink sizes and formats, including powders and being sold in convenience stores alongside regular energy drinks and sports drinks. In Canada, the product is branded as Muscle Mlk, a modification required in Canada to avoid confusion with milk.
CytoSport was founded in 1998 by the father/son team of Greg and Mike Pickett. It produces its powder products and pre-blends of ready-to-drink products at a 150,000-square-foot (14,000 m2) manufacturing facility.
Its products are endorsed by Pro-Bowl Running Back Adrian Peterson, and by Mike Bottom, the head coach of the University of Michigan men's swimming program and former co-head men's swimming coach at the University of California, Berkeley.
TSG Consumer Partners has financed Cytosport. The company reportedly earned US$200 million in 2008, and received the Small Company of the Year Award at the 16th annual Beverage Forum presented by Beverage World magazine and Beverage Marketing Corporation.Hormel announced it was acquiring CytoSport for $450 million in 2014.
A June 2010 investigation by Consumer Reports, a U.S. consumer advocacy magazine, found that two of Cytosport's Muscle Milk products contained levels of heavy metals near or exceeding levels proposed by the United States Pharmacopeia (USP). Muscle Milk's Chocolate powder had four heavy metals, and three of these metals were found to be at the highest levels of all the health drinks tested. Average cadmium levels of 5.6 µg in three daily servings exceeded the USP limit of 5 µg per day, and the average lead level of 13.5 µg also topped the USP limit of 10 µg per day. The average arsenic level of 12.2 µg was near the USP limit of 15 µg per day. Muscle Milk's Vanilla Crème powder had 12.2 µg of lead in three daily servings, exceeding the lead limits, and 11.2 µg of arsenic. In response, CytoSport said, "Importantly, the tests underscored the fact that Muscle Milk Chocolate liquid shakes, by far and away our company's most popular consumer form of Muscle Milk, did not exceed the proposed maximum levels of any heavy metals tested, even when used three times per day."
On June 8, 2009, it was reported that The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (BBB) was referring advertising claims made by CytoSport Beverage Co. for its Muscle Milk product to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Food and Drug Administration for review. Under its National Advertising Review Council terms, NAD had asked Cytosport to substantiate certain claims following a challenge to its advertising filed by Nestle USA. Nestle said the marketing of Muscle Milk is false and misleading, alleging consumers would be misled into thinking it is a supplemented milk product instead of a dietary supplement. CytoSport said its product claims are truthful and non-misleading, and that the product name is a non-deceptive registered trademark; it declined to participate in the NAD review, stating the review was unnecessary and inappropriate.
On May 6, 2009, in Sacramento, California, a federal court issued a preliminary injunction requiring Vital Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (VPX) to immediately remove Muscle Power from the marketplace, after concluding that the product infringes on CytoSport's trademark rights of Muscle Milk. This was prompted after CytoSport filed a lawsuit against VPX, stating that Muscle Power's packaging, or "trade dress", was deceptively similar to Muscle Milk's packaging. The court held that "VPX has chosen an identical font, in an identical color, on an identically shaped package, and placed the mark on the package in an identical location."
Muscle Milk owner and founder, Greg Pickett, has also been involved in a championship winning North American sports car racing team. Founded in 2007, Pickett's team has competed in the American Le Mans Series the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Tudor United SportsCar Championship. The team's successes include overall and class victories as well as the 2012 and 2013 American Le Mans Series LMP1 Drivers' and Teams' Championship. The team officially closed operations on May 16th, 2014 with Greg Pickett focusing his attention back on the expansion of his Muscle Milk brand.