Earlier this summer, the biotechnology company launched two ready-to-drink teas that use a unique liposomal delivery system that wraps phospholipids around key nutrients to safely deliver them through the digestive system to the small intestine where they can be more easily and quickly absorbed into the bloodstream for immediate use.
The teas, Cholesterol Aid, which features 800 mg of plant sterols per two servings, and Cardio Vitality, which touts an FDA compliant dose of 350 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids per serving, are designed to promote healthy cholesterol levels and heart health respectively more effectively than competing gel caps sold as supplements.
“When you take a vitamin or a nutrient, you start to lose it almost immediately in the stomach, which is when people talk about as ‘peeing out the value of the vitamins.’ But our liposomal technology wraps those nutrients inside a bi-layer of liposomes that allows those nutrients to travel through the digestive system all the way to the small intestine without degrading at all. And then when it gets to the small intestine, the liposome starts to break down and release those nutrients so they can be digested through the intestinal wall and go straight into the bloodstream,” explained Shari Boyer, chief marketing officer for Bio-Up.
She added that research conducted by an outside organization shows that the company’s technology leads to a 4.7 times better absorption of those materials or nutrients than from gel caps.
But the technology doesn’t just give the brand an edge over supplement pills and capsules – it also gives it a boost over standard ‘functional’ beverages, Boyer said.
“There are a lot of functional beverages that are out there that have efficacy at a certain level, which is great, but our efficacy stands out because of our proprietary liposomal technology,” she said.
For support, she pointed to a study conducted by Huntington Medical Research Institute that found Bio-Ups liposomal delivery system allowed patients to absorb nearly 90% of the DHA and EPA carried int the lipsome, which is nearly identical to the uptake seen with consuming salmon.
She also noted the company is engaged in an IRB-approved study with a cardiologist’s office where 20 patients will drink the company’s Cholesterol Aid daily for 30 days on and then off and their cholesterol levels, blood levels and weight will all be measured.
Overcoming taste challenges
While the company has been confident from the beginning on its technology’s ability to deliver key health benefits, Boyer admits the team initially was less sure about how consumers would react to the beverages' taste and mouth-feel. However, she says, initial response to both has been positive.
“Originally our goal was to create a beverage that would be ‘acceptable’ and that people would drink because it is healthy. But what people are telling us is they really, really like it. And we think that is because we worked really carefully on the flavoring of the two different versions,” she said.
Both are tea-based, but the Cholesterol Aid is mango-peach flavored and the Cardio Vitality is a fresh melon mint. Each uses a combination of stevia and cane sugar to deliver the sweetness many consumers want but also a lower calorie count.
The creamy mouth feel that comes from the phospholipid-technology is akin in coffee or tea with a splash of milk, which also helps boost satiety, according to Boyer, who noted that some users reported losing weight while drinking the beverages because they felt more full and didn’t crave as many sweets or alcohol as when they were not drinking the teas daily.
Walking the line between beverages and supplements
Bio-Up Mimetic Technologies’ dedication to the scientific research supporting the bioavailability of key nutrients in its beverages far exceeds that of most food and beverage manufacturers and instead reaches for the higher bar set for pharmaceutical and supplement manufacturers – even though Bio-Up’s drinks cannot demand the higher price point that many supplement manufacturers set to cover the associated costs.
But according to Chris Boyer, president of the company’s beverage division, the trade-off that comes with labeling a product as a food versus a supplement helps compensate for the potential price point difference.
For example, he said, products labeled as foods and beverages often have more accessible placement in brick and mortar stores than supplements. By being next to the other ready-to-drink beverages and brands with more mainstream appeal, Bio-Up will more likely be ‘discovered’ by a broader audience.
In addition, labeling the product as a beverage rather than a supplement made it easier to produce more quickly, Chris Boyer noted.
“A lot of co-packers have limitations on whether or not they can co-pack as a supplement versus a food,” due to requirements related to federally mandated Good Manufacturing Practices, he said. In addition, the packaging requirements for the sensitivities of the liposomal technology limited the company’s choice of co-packers.
“When we went to the supplement category, it made our choice so thin that we really couldn’t find a place to do it in the quantities that we wanted,” he added.
However, he noted the company is contemplating relabeling as a supplement or launching other SKUs that use the same technology as supplements.
“We just want to make sure that we navigate it the right way for our customers, first and foremost,” he said.
Creating a lifestyle brand for Millennials
Even as the brand considers relabeling as a supplement, it is moving full steam ahead as a beverage with a go-to-market strategy that favors peer-to-peer recommendations and targets Millennials, said Shari Boyer.
“We really want this to be a lifestyle beverage that people drink every day, because we know it works best when you drink it every day,” so with that in mind the brand conducted “extensive qualitative and quantitative testing on the concept and product” and found it resonated best with older Millennials, she said.
“The original thought was that this would be targeted for an older consumer,” but “what we are finding is that starting about 35, people are starting to become much more aware of their health and aware of that they can start to take measures … that can help them avoid going to the doctor later. And so, we call our target audience the ‘health activists,’ meaning that they’re very actively managing their health,” she explained.
However, she acknowledged that this group also needs extra education about how their diet and products can help them avoid health problems later in life.
The company provides this in part through the use of qualified health claims on its packaging and in its marketing materials, but it also recognizes that Millennials are more likely to trust their peers than brands or even health care providers. So, the brand is focusing on word of mouth to raise brand awareness.
“Our go to market strategy is about having as many people as we can try the product and have a good experience and then talk about it,” Shari Boyer said.
The brand’s current distribution through its website and on Amazon supports this approach because it has more space and time to communicate with consumers the product’s benefits. However, Shari Boyer said, in the near the brand also is looking to sell through health care providers who could educate consumers about the beverages’ health benefits. After that, it hopes to expand into retail – most likely with a small test in the Los Angeles area, she said.