FoodNavigator-USA caught up with co-founders Christopher Lai and Danny Huang to discuss the evolution of their “clean caffeine revolution” and how the brand is taking on Big Beverage in the process.
‘Not all caffeine is created equal’
Marquis entered the energy drink category over a decade ago to fill a void that Lai and Huang identified through their own caffeine consumption habits.
“Danny and I had similar routines - coffee in the morning, an energy drink mid-afternoon and a vodka-energy cocktail at night,” Lai says.
“Over time we found this mix of too much low-quality caffeine and sugar was doing damage to our bodies and our minds.”
Failing to find a better-for-you alternative that met their taste requirements, they launched Marquis with a line of “organic energy” drinks in fruit-infused Citrus Yuzu, Super Berry and Mango Ginger flavors. Instead of using what Lai refers to as “unnatural chemicals formulated in a lab,” Marquis blended yerba matte, green coffee and green tea.
“We found that this unique combination provides more of a balanced lift unlike the ups and downs of the other caffeinated drinks we tested,” Huang says.
Each drink contains 100 mg of caffeine, the equivalent of about a 12-ounce cup of coffee, which Huang points out allows for several “lifts” a day while keeping below the 400 mg recommended by the FDA.
From alternative to on-trend
In 2020, the company started its crossover into the fast-moving functional beverage space as growth strategy, updating core messaging from “organic energy” to “pure plant power” and showcasing functional attributes.
“Unlike other drinks in our space, Marquis does much more than just caffeinate,” Lai says. “Marquis is one of the healthiest options available for those who need a little lift.”
Drinks are fortified with vitamins and antioxidants and are free from sugar, calories, net carbs, gluten and artificial ingredients. This year’s upgrade includes bolder eye-catching packaging and replaces stevia sweetener with monk fruit.
Beyond its nutritional attributes, Huang says that Marquis offers a versatility no other caffeinated beverage can claim - as coffee alternative, soda replacement and sugar-free cocktail mixer. A Marqology section on the company website features a library of happy hour aperitif recipes.
“Just look at the other brands in our space and you'll see that they only want their beverage to be consumed by one very specific type of person for a specific occasion,” he says.
“Why? Because it’s easy. We could do that too, but if we wanted ‘easy’ we would have never started a beverage company.”
Taking on Big Beverage
For Marquis, spearheading a clean caffeine revolution implies educating consumers about what they are consuming, something it says “Big Beverage” has refused to do.
“With drinks packed full of sugar, artificial chemicals and too much caffeine, the beverage industry has been knowingly damaging people’s health for a long time - and it’s not just the energy drink category,” Huang says.
“By educating consumers on what makes the ingredients in Marquis superior, we hope it empowers them to be more cognizant of what they are putting into their bodies,” Lai adds.
Marquis is sold online and in California at select Targets, markets, gas stations, liquor stores and gyms.