Ever found yourself unable to shake off the stress of the day even while enjoying your evening bowl of ice cream? Bebida Beverage Co. (BeBevCo), the manufacturer of Koma Unwind relaxation drink, hopes to address the roughly 100 million consumers who either don’t sleep well or suffer from stress and anxiety with an ice cream product containing melatonin, valerian root, milk thistle and rose hips that will be marketed as a dietary supplement.
“We developed a relaxation beverage several years ago, and the product is doing well and growing fast,” BeBevCo CEO Brian Weber told FoodNavigator-USA. “And well, I like ice cream. The bottom line is, the ice cream is the delivery system for the supplements. Maybe it’s before its time, but Americans in particular are always looking for the next best thing.”
Given that 80% of ice cream is consumed after dinner, Weber saw potential in the marketplace to expand into an ice cream supplement incorporating the same four botanical supplements used in its beverage line, and has teamed with an 80-year-old regional ice cream manufacturer to develop the product.
“People have been mixing ice cream and caffeinated soft drinks since turn of 19th century,” he said. “And I’ve learned that a lot of people are consuming our relaxation drink with ice cream on top as a float. The drink is a ‘me time’ product. If you’re a non-sleeper, helps you sleep. If you’re stressed in afternoon, it’s your gateway to relaxation.”
After some trial and error, the firm settled on the right ratio of supplements to ice cream; unlike a liquid, ice cream expands or contracts depending on its container. A pint of relaxation ice cream contains the same amount of supplements as a 12-ounce relaxation beverage, though the firm is still mulling whether to add chamomile to the blend. BeBevCo has been sampling test products in vanilla and chocolate with very positive results, Weber noted. Because the supplements being incorporated are essentially tasteless, BeBevCo didn’t have to do much in the way of reformulation.
Now they’re ramping up to full production, working out packaging and shipping logistics, package design and coming up with a name for the product—“I like Dream Kream,” Weber said.
He hopes to roll the product out in January in pint and quart sizes, and is targeting a major city like New York to start. “I don’t suspect you’re going to see it in every gas station,” he said. “It’s a functional product and will have a premium price. I do think possibilities exist in specialty shops and head shops where people buy supplements for relaxation. But there’s also some symmetry in big cities where we could hit a dense population with this kind of product.”
The company is in discussions with its lawyers about on-pack claims and isn’t sure whether it will make any explicit claims, despite that the supplements are natural botanicals and have been incorporated into products for decades for their benefits. Weber says he is already anticipating blowback from parents (though the product won’t be marketed to kids or sold in novelty forms).
“We’re not going to become the next Ben and Jerry,” he said. “There’s a huge market for products that help you relax and sleep that aren't bad for you. It’s kind of fun and crazy at the same time. I say, ‘why not’?”
Food or supplement?
Melatonin has generated some controversy in the past couple of years after the FDA issued warning letters to companies alleging that foods and beverages containing it were adulterated.
In a letter to HBB, LLC in July 2011, the FDA claimed its melatonin-laced "Lazy Larry" chocolate brownies were being marketed as conventional foods but contained ingredients without the necessary regulatory approvals for use in food (melatonin is not an approved food additive or considered GRAS—generally recognized as safe).
The company responded by re-positioning them as dietary supplements, although some observers argued that doing so would fall foul of FDA draft guidance on the distinction between supplements and conventional foods/beverages, which argues that if a product looks like a food/beverage, it should be classified and marketed as one.
In December 2011, the maker of the melatonin-laced Slowtivate Relaxation Drink (Revolt Distribution Inc) was also given a similar warning .