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California company looking to create 'synergy' beverages category

By Hank Schultz , 12-Oct-2012
Last updated on 12-Oct-2012 at 17:43 GMT

A California beverage company called LifeAID is trying to carve out new territory between energy beverages and sugary hydration drinks with a line of products aimed at golfers, cross fit enthusiasts and, now, partiers.

The goal is to inaugurate a new category, which the company is calling synergy beverages.

“We saw the market was moving more toward health and away from what energy drinks have, tons of sugar and tons of caffeine.  A ‘synergy’ drink aspect came when we customized the formulation for the application to get the mind and body to work in better synergy through nutrients and vitamins,” LifeAID founder and CEO Orion Melehan told NutraIngredients-USA.

The drinks come in three varieties so far: GolfAID, aimed at (you guessed it), golfers; FitAID, aimed at cross fit enthusiasts and the gyms that cater to them, and PartyAID, which is, as Melehan delicately put it, a “recovery drink.”  They are sweetened with blue agave nectar, and feature only 45 calories per 12-oz. can.

Products feature efficacious doses

The products have different formulations depending on the application, and feature efficacious doses of active ingredients.  The golf product, for example, features 333% of the RDA for vitamin C and 600% for vitamin E. And glucosamine is listed first among the ingredients in the 565-milligram “proprietary blend.” The product is sold out of branded coolers on golf courses. The FitAID product, aimed at cross fit enthusiasts and sold through gyms that specialize in the training method, features an array of vitamins and its own blend of energy-type ingredients that includes green tea extract, DL-methionine, L-glutamine and L-arginine.  The ‘proprietary blend’ portion of the ingredient deck on the PartyAID product leads with 5-HTP.

Supplements, not straight beverages

Aaron Hinde, a former practicing chiropractor and a partner in the business, was in charge of the formulation of the products.  He said the golf product formulation was back engineered from interviews conducted with golfers, including some PGA pros.  The product aims to address the needs identified in those discussions, such as greater flexibility, better mental focus and sustained energy to be able to play 36 holes in a day.

If all of that sounds like things a supplement might address, you’re right, and LifeAID doesn’t try to hide the fact, featuring a supplement facts panel on the cans.

“We are careful to call ourselves a beverage company but on the can itself it clearly labels it as a supplement,” Melehan said.

The challenge of plowing virgin soil

Plowing new ground is always tough, and trying to carve a whole new category is even tougher, said beverage expert Jim Tonkin, principal of Phoenix-based consultancy Healthy Brand Builders. Tonkin spent years on beverage production lines and now consults with a host of companies including major CPG brands. 

Tonkin said he had his doubts about trying to carve out a synergy category, or trying to tell a story about the synergistic benefits of a product. He said it’s all about how you craft your message to connect with your consumers, and the fewer syllables the better.

“Consumers are dumb.  In order to get them to opt into your universe you have to be simple. You have to get them to understand a simple message. And then if your branding is on point and they like holding the can or bottle because it is a badge they like to be associated with, then you’ve got an opportunity to grow a brand,” he said.

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