Shannon O’Brien is CEO of Thinknoo, a company that is marketing a line of supplements that are meant to boost the cognition enhancing properties of the caffeine in coffee.
O’Brien comes from an innovation consulting role at Deloitte Digital. That background, plus his cofounder Steven Austin's background education in psychology and economics helped them to think outside the box when it came to nutritional supplementation.
“I was interested in not just bringing people up to baseline,” O’Brien told NutraIngredients-USA. “I was interested in taking people at a normal level and getting them to a whole new level of efficiency.”
Products to enhance—and mute—coffee’s effects
O’Brien partnered with Austin, who he met at university in Australia. The pair came up with two formulations to both boost and mute the effects of coffee in the highly caffeinated lifestyle they and their peers were living.
One products, called NOOstart is a blend of choline, vitamin B6, hordenine, theacrine and curcumin. The stated goal is to boost the cognition enhancing benefits of the caffeine in coffee while at the same time warding off the afternoon crash some heavy coffee drinkers experience. One of these ingredients—hordenine—does appear on a recent FDA ingredient advisory list, in which FDA questions its status as a legal dietary ingredient.
The other product, called NOOreset, features phosphatidylserine, magnesium, boron, zinc and a bit of melatonin. It also includes an ingredient taken from TCM: rutacarpine, a compound that can be extracted from a tree species native to China and the Korean Peninsula.
In the case of the enhancement supplement, one question could be, why not just include the caffeine in the product in the first place?
O’Brien said that coffee has a lot of other things in it, whose health effects are becoming more widely known. Plus, coffee is an occasion in and of itself; O’Brien noted that as many as 64% of Americans drink coffee daily.
“There have been a lot of studies around the additional benefits of coffee,” he said.
Pairing with coffee brands
O’Brien admitted the long term goal for the brand is to offer the coffee and the nootropic ingredients in one package. While he admitted it’s not a new idea, he said in his view the existing brands didn’t pay enough attention to the quality of the coffee itself.
“I think that nutritionally enhanced coffee has been done a number of times. They are using interesting nutrients, but in my view their coffee sucks,” he said.
“It’s really important for us to leverage partnerships with some known coffee brands that sell really good coffee. We’re in the process of that now. What’s the point of having the nutrients if people don’t like the coffee?” O’Brien said.