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Switched ON? Ornithine & caffeine combo promises a more sophisticated approach to energy drink formulation

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By Elaine Watson+

Last updated on 11-Jun-2014 at 16:42 GMT

Switched ON? Ornithine & caffeine combo promises a more sophisticated approach to energy drink formulation

The neuropsychologist behind cognitive health beverage Nawgan  reckons his latest innovation 'ON powered refreshment’' - which combines caffeine and the fatigue-busting amino acid ornithine - has more mainstream appeal, bringing a fresh twist to the energy drinks market.

While Nawgan - which contains an array of bioactive ingredients including citicoline; Alpha-GPC; lycopene; caffeine; and natural vitamin E - is doing well in channels such as Vitamin Shoppe and college campuses, ON is targeting a broader audience of consumers looking for something besides Monster and Red Bull to help them stay alert.

Available in flavors including Blueberry Lemonade, and Dragonfruit Tangerine, and typically stocked next to enhanced waters, ON does not include the word ‘energy’ on pack, but features a large power button familiar to anyone that has switched on a computer, ON Beverages CEO and co-founder Dr Rob Paul told FoodNavigator-USA.

“Everyone recognizes the power button,” said Dr Paul.

“It’s a universal image, so we deliberately didn’t put the word ‘energy’ on pack as well. The ornithine works in synergy with caffeine and is more effective than caffeine alone.”

The combination of ornithine and caffeine reduces fatigue, and increases stamina and concentration more than caffeine alone

The product, launched on the west coast earlier this year, will soon be available in 1,000 natural and traditional grocery retailers now that distributors including UNFI and Nature’s Best have taken it on, he revealed.

And unlike many rivals in the functional beverages arena, the claims made about ON - which promises to ‘increase stamina, enhance your focus and boost brainpower’ - are supported by research on the end product rather than extrapolations based on literature about its individual ingredients, he said.

“We’ve conducted animal and double-blinded placebo-controlled human studies on the end product which prove that the combination of ornithine and caffeine reduces fatigue, and increases stamina and concentration more than caffeine alone.

“The formula has been designed to do this without over-stimulating people - it has slightly less caffeine than most energy drinks [50mg per 8oz vs 80mg for Monster and Red Bull].

“We are not publishing the studies yet or releasing the amount of ornithine in the formulation for competitive reasons, but we will aim to do so in future, because we are a science-based company.”

ON powered refreshment beverages, which come with a suggested retail price of $1.99-2.49, are packaged in 16 oz. PET bottles and contain 30 calories per 8 oz serving.

There is a very low barrier to entry in this market

Many developers in the functional beverages market tend to take a kitchen sink approach to formulation, adding in ingredients that don’t work in combination, or at doses that are not proven to be efficacious, he claimed.

ON, by contrast, contains the same dose of the active ingredients - ornithine and caffeine - used in the clinical trials, he said.

“There is a very low barrier to entry in this market. You see a lot of products with doses of ingredients that are not consistent with the amounts used in clinical trials.”

Industry first

ON is claimed to be the first beverage marketed in the US to contain ornithine, an amino acid that stimulates the breakdown of macronutrients (releasing stored energy), and reduces ammonia, which causes fatigue, confusion, slower thinking speed and poorer memory.

Nawgan - which contains brain-health ingredient citicoline - is doing well in channels such as Vitamin Shoppe and university campuses

Widely used in functional beverages in Japan, but best-known in the US as a dietary supplement, ornithine was self-determined as GRAS last year and is produced for ON Beverages by Japanese firm Kirin Kyowa Hakko, a key financial backer of ON Beverages and the supplier of citicoline (Cognizin), the functional ingredient in Nawgan, said Dr Paul.

Sweetened with cane sugar, Reb A (stevia) and erthyritol, each 8oz serving of ON contains 50mg of caffeine from tea leaf extract, vitamin C, B6 and B12, plus an unspecified amount of ornithine.

‘Natural’ caffeine

Dr Paul chose to use caffeine from tea leaf extract in ON because the product has a natural positioning. But from a purely biological perspective, ‘natural’ caffeine has exactly the same clinical effects as synthetically-produced caffeine, he said, although other components in caffeine-containing natural ingredients may confer additional effects.  

Dr Rob Paul took part in a recent forum on cognitive health hosted by our sister title NutraIngredients-USA. Click HERE for the highlights.

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