Nootropics brand founder rides out hard times to successful nationwide distribution

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

Koios founder Chris Miller said a refocus on younger female consumers has helped the nootropic beverage company prosper after a shaky start. Koios photo
Koios founder Chris Miller said a refocus on younger female consumers has helped the nootropic beverage company prosper after a shaky start. Koios photo

Related tags: nootropics, Cognitive function, Cognitive health

Personal experience with cognitive issues led entrepreneur Chris Miller to found a nootropic beverage brand that he says does a better job of helping him hold focus than do commonly recommended solutions.

Chris Miller, founder of the beverage brand Koios, said his experience as an athlete made him familiar with a supplement augmented lifestyle.

“I was a rugby player in college,”​ Chris Miller, founder of the brand Koios, told NutraIngredients-USA​. “I was in a situation where you are biohacking to get as strong as you can.”

But after college, with the stimulus and release of intense physical activity now mostly in the rearview mirror, Miller said he started to struggle.

“I got a job in the adult world and at least professionally everything I needed was above the neck.  I was struggling with undiagnosed ADHD and I’m on the autism spectrum. I was self medicating with caffeine and energy drinks and I had been prescribed Adderall, which is one molecule away from being methamphetamine. It all started to affect my life very poorly,”​ he said.

“It can affect your cortisol levels and mess with your adrenal function. I started having to take sleeping pills just to calm down,”​ Miller added.

Nootropics for dealing with modern life

Miller said in a search for natural alternatives led him to found Koios with an ingredient mix aimed at supporting focus, cognition and memory.  The ingredients include mega doses of vitamins B6 and B12, medium chain triglycerides from coconut, which have been linked with neuroprotective benefits​, ginseng, Lion’s Mane mushroom (Hericeum erinaceus​) and caffeine from green tea.

Miller said his experiences in the launch of his professional career led him to believe that the human organism struggles with the amount of electronic stimulus that constitutes modern life.

“I don’t think our brains have evolved to keep up to where we are with technology,”​ Miller said. “People are clamoring for a way to keep up with too much Internet, too much entertainment.  Coffee is an old technology.  I think stimulants will be the epidemic of the future.”

Koios features in house research on its website that shows the results of brain scans on subjects before and after consuming the beverage.  The company claims the research shows heightened brain activity associated with clarity and focus after consuming the beverage.

Lessons learned along the way

“We launched in 2014 in the sports nutrition market with a capsule,”​ Miller said. “We realized this notion of nootropics was starting to take off.”

But Miller said he and his team quickly realized that capsules wasn’t the growth end of the market.  Miller said in 2016 the company decided to move into a format that seemed to resonate better with consumers.

“We very naively decided to get into the beverage space,”​ he said.

Miller said what he learned in the process could be included in a business text as a case study of what not to do.

“Our first drink was awful.  It didn’t taste good, it was packaged poorly and our go to market strategy wasn’t good. We ate a lot of mud and those of us in the company at the time have PTSD from that,”​ he said.

“At the time in 2016 we had no idea of what it took to build a beverage company.  We though with a couple of hundred grand we could go nationwide.  We overproduced single SKUs and almost went bankrupt,”​ Miller said.

Chance to rethink brand

But out of adversity came opportunity.  Miller said the low point was a chance to take a step back and not only reevaluate the production plan but also to revisit the formula and rethink who they were trying to sell it to.  While the company continues to target males (its foundational demographic) with its Fitsoda line, the rebranded and reformulated Koios line was aimed at women.

“With Koios we predominantly focus on women, especially the young segment. We are trying to reach 20-year-old to 30-year-old women who care about what they put in their bodies and are up on the latest trends.  It’s the same demographic that cares about kombucha,”​ he said

New manufacturing technology helps company innovate

And in the meantime, Miller said manufacturing technology has evolved to allow small manufacturers like Koios to make their own products, in order both to be nimble and to have a better hand on quality, and to be able to do it competitively.

“Before the relaunch we were working with copackers. But just the in the way that cell phones are better and cheaper now, the same has happened in food production technology.  It’s smaller, faster, cheaper.  Using that we could iterate, stay competitive and still keep the work in house. Now we make our SKUs at two facilities in Denver,”​ Miller said.

Miller said the company is now in nationwide distribution with GNC and Walmart.

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