Amara Drink aims to modernize the sports drink category with low-sugar option

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Amara Drink aims to modernize sports drinks with low-sugar option

Related tags: Drink, Coffee

The founder of Amara Beverage Company is on a bold mission to fight the obesity epidemic by “modernizing” the sports drink category, which he says is filled with beverages laden with sugar, empty calories and artificial ingredients. 

Greg Connolly, an experienced entrepreneur, says he launched Amara after he “got to see behind the scenes of the beverage industry”​ through a software company he previously owned and has since sold.

“I was mortified to see what was going in to energy drinks and sports drinks that I was drinking every day – sometimes multiple times a day,”​ he told Food Navigator-USA.

In particular, he didn’t like how many sports drinks were “over-loaded”​ with calories from sweeteners, which seemed counterintuitive to the goal of burning calories during exercise to improve health.

“One of the core problems that I saw with the beverage industry is that [drinks] are the largest purveyor of empty calories – accounting for 30% to 40% of the empty calories most Americans consume,” ​he said.

In response, Connolly worked with industry experts to create Amara – a raw fruit sports drink sweetened with low calorie organic agave nectar and monk fruit that has only 30 calories and 4 grams of sugar per 16-ounce bottle. A smaller 12-ounce bottle of traditional Gatorade has 80 calories and 21 grams of sugar and a 12-ounce bottle of Gatorade’s lower calorie G2 drink has 30 calories and 7 grams of sugar.

Amara also has a wider variety of electrolytes than other sports drinks, Connolly said. “Thanks to modern medicine, we now know there are five key electrolytes. Gatorade gives you only two: sodium and potassium. We give you magnesium, phosphorus and calcium, too,”​ he added.

The drink also has raw CoffeeBerry, which is a blend of caffeine, B-vitamins and antioxidates, and raw maqui berry, which adds a citrus-blueberry flavor.

The combination of these ingredients with purified water brings the sports drink “up to par with modern 2015 nutritional science,”​ Connolly said.

Craftsmanship

To ensure the vitamins, nutrients and electrolytes so carefully balanced in Amara make it intact to athletes, the company skipped the pasteurization process, which makes products safer but can lower the value of these elements, Connolly said.

Instead, Amara uses an organic microbial control process used in the wine and juice industries to make the drink safe without cooking the nutrients out, Connolly said. The process allows the company to maintain a clean label, which is pivotal for distribution in Whole Foods, and it creates a gentle carbonation that reminds consumers of drinking soda without the unhealthy ingredients, Connolly added.

He explained that Amara chose microbial control instead of the trendy high pressure pasteurization, which offers many of the same benefits over traditional heat pasteurization, because the company wanted to keep the price of the end product in an “achievable reach for the masses.”​ He noted some HPP juices cost upwards of $9 a bottle, which is “unreasonable for the mass market.”

Marketing to CrossFit

Because the drink is raw and made from fruit, it fits within the paleo and zone diets favored by CrossFit athletes, who are natural targets for the drink, Connolly said.

He noted the company wanted to market heavily to the CrossFit community because the fitness segment is exploding and so is the potential consumer base. In 2007, there were only 30 CrosssFit gyms, but now there are almost 11,000, Connolly said.

He added that using CrossFit as a point of origin for marketing also made sense because it allows the firm to market “downstream”​ to other fitness segments, such as Zumba, but that the reverse would not be true.

“It would be hard to be the drink of Zumba and go upstream to CrossFit,”​ Connolly said.

Conscious capitalism

In addition to working with CrossFit to help Americans get back in shape, Amara is working with the nonprofit Clean Oceans Project to “help get the planet back in shape,”​ according to the firm’s website.

As a member of the nonprofit’s board, Connolly said he is using Amara to evangelize environmentally sustainable business practices, such as using plant-based plastics.

According to the website, the firm also is developing multiple vertically integrated plastic recycling systems to help reduce the disposal of plastic in the ocean.

As the firm grows, Connolly plans to place pressure on supply partners to green their businesses as well, he said.

“I personally try to be a very green businessman, but I am also a capitalist. … I think if we can have a positive impact on the planet and consumers while building a business, that is absolutely the way to go,”​ he said. 

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