Startup Spotlight

Update disrupts RTD energy drink category with star ingredient that promises energy minus the jitters

By Deniz Ataman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags paraxanthine Caffeine Energy drink

Update is redefining the energy drink category with its star ingredient, paraxanthine, a metabolite of caffeine that provides the uplifting benefits of caffeine without the negative side effects, company Co-founder and CEO Daniel Solomons told FoodNavigator-USA during an episode of Startup Spotlight.

Including paraxanthine disrupts the RTD energy drink market by focusing on nootropic ingredients that “mimic the effects of ingredients [like caffeine] that are consumed daily,” Solomons said.

Paraxanthine, the primary metabolite in caffeine, is formed when caffeine breaks down in the body. Studies suggest paraxanthine's potential to improve cognitive function, memory and vigilance​ more than other caffeine metabolites like theobromine and theophylline.

“You and I might be having a coffee thinking [that] we are feeling the exact same experience. But in fact, we are not. Half the people metabolize it quickly, half the people metabolize it slowly. And unfortunately, if you are in that latter half, you are feeling really bad for the rest of the day, you are getting jittery, anxious, you are not sleeping well at night,” he explained.

Landing on the right formula, only to improve it again later

Paraxanthine is typically found in supplements​ and masking its bitter notes in a beverage was a challenge. By teaming with formulation scientist Shawn Wells, Update balances functionality and sweetness with a monkfruit and stevia blend that is paired with fruit flavors, including Berry, Lime, Mandarin and Peach. The beverages also include vitamin B12 and L-theanine.

Solomons explained that the flavors were developed after field research in New York City bodegas, where he spoke with shop owners and employees about which flavors sold more.

Update is developing its next line of products with a continued focus on improving taste and convenience, Solomons said.

“We really want to be that brand that builds a universe around paraxanthine. We have a great relationship with … ingredient manufacturers and creators. We have done drinks, what can be next in that portfolio? Now we are working on powders,” he added.

Launching in stealth ‘to learn how the product will sell’

While Update is available on its website and Amazon, the brand’s retail distribution was a “stealthy” and “intentional” process and involved launching only to “a handful of really specific retail and office partners” in New York City and in Erewhon in Los Angeles. This allowed the brand to adjust quickly from customer feedback, Solomons said.

“We wanted to launch with a handful of those partners to see the product, to learn how the product will sell, what the right messaging is [and] what was the feedback from the retailer and from the distributor and from the customer. So, by keeping it quite a small sample size, we are able to really be in control of that,” he elaborated.                                                                                                             

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